Saving time by working smarter not harder… 4 ideas

Saving time is as important as spending time when working in IT.  Who is the master and who is the slave in the old IT analogy?

This article focuses on time saving approaches to your IT that save not just time but money from real world people in real world scenarios.

Neither sponsored nor coerced this article is quite simply how I’ve done it and seen it done.  I hope I can give you back some of your time.

Focusing on managers, enthusiastic employees and senior IT people this article explains in business terms how to approach solutions to save some time.

  • Saving Time
  • Reduce infrastructure overhead
  • Time Tracking
  • Enable Non-IT staff
  • Reusability
  • Wrap Up

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Saving Time

Time is precious.  I was on RTE News this morning and read the following article.  There is not enough time for IT people and it’ll affect the economy

I shuddered.

Instantly what comes to my mind is where did I save time that I know a lot of businesses could benefit from.

I build, use, refine and enhance IT solutions all day every day.  This article goes through where I’ve helped myself massively

If you spot something that could also help me … by all means let me know … I’d like my time back too.

 

Reduce infrastructure overhead

Hosting and Virtualisation

It’s fun to have a comms rooms with servers and blinking lights but the sheer effectiveness of virtualisation and on-demand processing power makes it a no brainer.

I’ve built a SaaS platform that went from my machine, to a server, in a comms room, to a hosted server, to a high availability infrastructure, to a virtualised server.

Of them all the virtualised is definitely the way to go and secure options can definitely be found outside your infrastructure.  Numerous financial based businesses trust bxp software with data storage outside their infrastructure.  Opex instead of capex and no depreciation!

Financially it’s not a second thought.  Saving time not worrying about the physical and infrastructure challenges is massive in itself.

If you don’t know what virtualisation is please have a read here.

 

Updates and patching

We are all aware of the requirement of updating but the wasted time is frustrating for everyone.

OS updates, driver updates and software patches which involve running around the business trying to get everything in order are time consuming.

The best investment I’ve ever seen is in a platform called Desktop Central from a company called ManageEngine.

 

In short you install a small program on every machine in the business and I do mean every, Windows (back to XP), Mac (back to Snow Leopard) and Linux alike.  You can even put your smart phones into the mix.

From a centralised single reportable source you get

  • Inventory / Asset management
  • Patch management
  • Software deployment
  • Configuration
  • Remote Control & Power Management

Genuinely if you’re serious about security and patching but don’t have the time to run around everywhere… this is an instant win.

For management the centralised reporting makes it very easy to see where you’re winning and where you have challenges.

Even if your servers are in a different environments (hosted or working from home) … not a problem manage your entire IT estate from a single platform.

Genius!  Thanks Jason Ryan for introducing me to this solution, saving time, money and headaches.   I now swear by this tool for infrastructure management.

 

I’m sure there are other similar platforms and if you have heard of some worthy of note please let me know.

 

Time tracking

Metrics for Saving Time

Saving time starts with you knowing where your time is spent.

The famous line of “I haven’t got time” to explain where my time went is often an eyebrow raisers for management.

Metrics are facts which prove or disprove your argument.

We all have time to record where our time is spent but we become focused on other challenges. This is a global issue not just isolated to your business.

So we need some tools to gather metrics and as a result time sheets are the first option but they need people to fill them in.

 

I don’t like tracking, I trust my team

As a manager why do you need the time sheets?  In short, to free up more budget but you have to present facts not feelings.

I trust my team implicitly yet consequently accused of bias without facts.

You still need to consider people’s feelings.  These are adults not children and questioning their work ethic is what a time sheet often presents as, whether that’s true or not.

You need to help your team understand the why, not just the how.

For a business, increasing head count and investment in solutions needs to be backed up with real figures not just the feelings and impressions of hard working staff.

You may love your new car, but if the petrol tank says we need fuel… it’s not even a discussion.  People are not cars but even IT departments need money as fuel.

 

Common arguments

Demoralising.  For most skilled creatives “is my time better spent on solving challenges or spent doing paperwork?”

Been there, argued that so many times.  Regardless of my opinion as an employee, for management and budgeting there is no arguing with being able to accurately report where time was spent.

Employees often feel the Big Brother effect of time reviewing.  There is push back by employees against some solutions.

Not to worry there is a really straight easy win for this, see the solutions below.

Legally you can’t.  Management also sometimes feel like “am I allowed?” and the short answer in Irish law is yes.

For health, safety, legal and security reasons your business needs to track hours.

If someone is over working, they should be compensated appropriately or at least supported and recognised for the effort correctly.

If not the business is legally liable, especially the directors.

Change.  If people have been doing it one way for a long time change is the biggest headache.  The most important thing here is communication.

Managing change is truly a managers skill.  This is where motivation and communication are key and explaining how this helps not questions people’s delivery. 

Not an easy challenge but doable.

I haven’t got time.  In the absence of a time sheet then time tracking software is available.

The software records the window in focus (including its title) and how long it’s being focused on.

No worries, you don’t need to write down where you spent your time… the system can record your desk based work.

 

Solutions

Time sheets are such a better option to allow people to express their opinion on where the time was spent.

Personally treating staff like adults rather than cogs in a machine is infinitely better.

I love the Time Tracker module in bxp software as it allows tracking of project by work type as well as project.

I designed it specifically to give me everything I could want in terms of speed of data entry and speed of reporting.

There are tons of other time sheet software options out there.

 

Yet if there’s not enough time, let software do it for you. It is possible to get time tracking software which records the information automatically.  Saving time for the staff and for you.

Test it on yourself first if you don’t believe me.  RescueTime ( https://www.rescuetime.com/ ) works wonders but they are not the only game in town.  There are plenty of options.

 

Enable non-IT staff

The usual bottle necks

When you consider saving time for your IT department what does IT have to do for the rest of the business?

  • Infrastructure setup and maintenance
  • Security reporting and review (including risk management)
  • Security hardening and security event management
  • Reporting and report development
  • System and system development
  • Training
Image from https://www.eir.ie/

So where do you have to focus your time? Answer:  Everywhere.

Saving time is trying to get things off your desk that really don’t need to be there.  Wherever possible if you can enable your workforce to manage systems then by all means, do it.  Help yourself.

 

eir, Ireland’s largest telecoms provider, is a very progressive business. Their internal evolution is something to behold.

Over the years working with them I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a vast amount of incredibly skilled and capable staff throughout their business.

I have seen staff go from working in a contact centre to helping to design and develop business wide solutions.  How?

 

Self-Service Platforms

eir’s approach enables departments to self-serve whilst still operating within strictly operated IT support and security guidelines.

Self service means numerours time savings.

  • Firstly save IT’s time because they teams can do the work themselves
  • Secondly staff save time for themselves.  They get their work looked at when they’re ready to go.

 

ERP platforms such as bxp software give them the ability to grow the business without the need for IT qualifications.

ERP doesn’t have to be expensive by the way.

bxp is a game changer because it literally saves WEEKS of time for IT departments whilst still leaving IT in control of the business solutions.

 

So looking at that list again:

  • Firstly Infrastructure setup and maintenance: Desktop Central rocks!
  • Security reporting and review (including risk management): Available in bxp as an SEMS (Security Event Management System)
  • Security hardening and security event management: Even GDPR scheduling is possible through bxp
  • Reporting and report development: Scheduled reporting and instant reporting on operational data from bxp removes so much bottlenecking
  • System and system development:  A secure platform on which solutions can be developed, just ask eir, or any of the bxps clients.
  • Finally Training: bxp provides an eLearning platform that is auditable and integrates with the entire business and it’s operational tools

 

Nick, Chris and Aiden can all talk you through getting your time back or put you in touch with clients who get their time back.

bxp software Nick Wheeler Chris Thomson Aiden Rice
bxp software website Linked In Linked In Linked In
bxp software

 

Reusability

I have built businesses on the basis of reusability.  I discuss the approach and use here.

Essentially… make things reusable.

It’s the old story of give a person a fish, you feed them for a day.  Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.

There are so many ways to implement this in your business even build entire businesses from your own solutions.

Reusability is a mind set.  It doesn’t cost you anything but the time to read the article.

A distinct lack of reusability is in my opinion where that article stems from.

 

Wrap Up

By 2018, I’ll have spent 23 years working on, in and around IT.  There are people who’ve spent a lot more.

How many hours of my life can I get back… none.  How can I find ways of saving time in the future… by working smarter not harder.

Further to that I’ve spent 14 of those years working out how someone other than the IT department could build solutions and I could get time to focus on projects that grow the business.

To put it another way I’ve spent 14 years of life at 60 hour weeks making my own life as an IT manager easier.  I’m happy to share that work.

 

What could you build if you had 14 years to give yourself a toolkit?

Now add to that a team of highly skilled developers and security professionals and what have you created?

IT departments need their time back, let some software give it back to them to work on one off business critical projects not generating another report someone else could have done!

 

If there’s anything in this article you’d like to chat to me about you can contact me here or on social media.

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