Editor’s note: Special thanks to Walter for helping me with accuracy and real-world applicability!
I’ll admit it – I don’t work in IT. But I get to chat every day with those who do, not to mention a few friends who went into an IT line of work. Plus, at the end of last year we launched the BlackBerry page on Spiceworks – a community of over 2 million IT pros. A few common themes have popped up in discussions, tweets, chats, and calls, and considering that we’re in New Years resolution season, I figured it couldn’t hurt to put down a proposed list of 10 resolutions for IT departments. The list is by no means exhaustive, and may not be completely relevant to your IT department, but that’s where I need your help. Finish it off, tweak it, or give one of the items a digital thumbs up in the comments below.
1. Discover what you can automate, and automate it
This one applies to IT departments and business in general. We all perform common tasks in our work, and one trick to save yourself some time is to automate a few of these tasks – even if you’re just shaving a few minutes off the end of it. Maybe it’s time to organize your contacts, create some e-mail rules and filters, or even write a batch script for installing software. Figure out what can be automated and automate it; you’ll thank yourself when you’ve got the extra time to think ahead rather than putting out fires.
2. Set up remote support tools
For many IT departments, particularly in large companies, support is a major ongoing concern. Adding remote support to your tool belt not only gives you back time from performing the work and/or getting ahold of the employees device or laptop, it can also give you a firsthand look at the issue when compared to support options like phone or email. If you already have remote support tools, ask yourself: are they doing the job? Are there any updates for technology and software in this area?
3. Get help from other IT pros and service partners
No one should have to go it alone, no matter what your line of work. Getting involved in communities of IT professionals like Spiceworks can have great benefits. It’s not just gossip, speculation, and shoulders to cry on – it’s a wealth of experience and individuals with experience in the challenges that you may be facing. I think you’ll find that communities like these have real benefits to your work, and can be a lot of fun along the way. Many IT departments also have service contracts with vendors and partners. Be sure to take advantage of any ongoing benefits that these agreements provide you.
4. Hear what the employees have to say
In many organizations there’s a disconnect between employees and the IT department. Employees can be seen as children running about with tech toys, and IT departments can be seen as limiting access and functionality, hoarding access to corporate data. It doesn’t have to be this way, and I believe that IT departments are or can be significant enablers of efficient work. Toss some surveys out there, sit down and have a chat with key individuals from different areas and levels of the organization, and discover where this relationship stands.
5. Anticipate future challenges, opportunities, and trends
Remember the time that I mentioned you could save automating tasks or implementing remote support? Time to use it. Look ahead and what IT challenges your company may be facing six months from now, or even a few years from now. Keep track of where technology is headed in your industry, such as the increased use of tablets at work. When the future trend projection becomes a reality, and you’re ready with a well thought-out plan, you’ll be a star.
6. Stay healthy, get sleep, and take breaks
I’ve certainly had periods of time in my life where I just wasn’t happy at work. In many cases, however, it wasn’t the work itself that was causing it – rather my personal state of mind. Healthy eating, exercise, and a good work-life balance all have positive effects that spill over into many areas of your life. You’ll be happier, easier to work with, more alert, and able to tackle challenges with gusto rather than trepidation, frustration, and discouragement.
7. Document your processes for the next person (or for you)
We’ve all started a new job at a company and had to climb our way through a pile of learning that was not organized and not easily accessible. And in those situations we think to ourselves, “if only this had been written down somewhere, it would have been so much easier.” Think about the next individual who might be stepping into your role when you move on, and document common processes and/or create onboarding materials. It can even benefit you if you find yourself following a specific and complex series of tasks or steps on a regular basis. Get it down, get it organized, and keep it accessible. You’ll be doing a favor for many, including yourself.
8. Audit your vendors for consolidation opportunities
Particularly in large companies, agencies, vendors, and contractors can stack up over long periods of time. Sometimes they’re even accomplishing the same tasks. Even if they aren’t, perhaps one of these vendors can offer multiple services at a discounted rate. It’s good to perform an audit of whom you have contracted, and consolidate when possible. It saves money in the long run, and perhaps you can return to #8 and take a look at that wish list with the extra funds.
9. Prioritize your IT purchasing list
Like any department, IT has a wish list. Whether it’s new software licenses, server upgrades, or more staff, work out what exactly your list looks like, and get it prioritized. This way you’ll have what’s most important at the forefront, and you’ll be able to seek justification and choose your battles wisely, creating the most significant positive effect possible considering your resources.
10. Enable self-service
If you find yourself buried under the weight of employee tech support, consider how you can enable a self-service model to take some of the strain off on easy tasks. For example, provide simple steps for employees to set up email accounts on their BlackBerry smartphones. The setup app makes it a breeze, and can prevent or reduce calls to the IT department with requests for help. Or, document the instructions for mapping common network drives, or connecting to printers. Get feedback on the how-to articles, and make sure that they’re user friendly.
Hopefully these ten New Year’s resolutions for IT departments can help you kick off 2013 with a great start and an eye for the future. Did I miss any that you think should have made the list? Or, which is your top resolution for 2013? Share in the comments below.