Tech issues can lead to significant security risks, costs, and time delays. An expert offers IT pros three tips for reducing and possibly eliminating these outcomes.
There's a story circulating that early in the development of the Mac, Steve Jobs convinced Apple engineers to shave 10 seconds off the computer's boot time by suggesting five-million users would save 50-million seconds a day or a dozen lifetimes. His logic may seem questionable, but the engineers gave Jobs the faster boot time.
If the founder of Apple Inc. was concerned about 10 seconds, imagine what he'd think about a recent Deloitte survey.
In the article IT failures cost UK companies £35B per year in lost productivity, TechRepublic's Alison DeNisco Rayome writes about the survey's findings. "The average private sector employee in the UK who uses IT systems and reports wasted time at work said they waste an average of nearly 6% of that time due to technology problems. ... The top three IT issues faced by workers were slow-running systems and equipment (65%), connection failures (54%), and outdated software (32%)."
SEE: Systems downtime expense calculator (Tech Pro Research)
After studying the same Deloitte report, Robert Rutherford, CEO of QuoStar, a UK IT consultancy, in his Business Chief article Avoiding delays: Managing the business during tech issues, looks at how IT departments might reduce and possibly eliminate tech-induced time delays.
1: Consistency reduces confusion
First on Rutherford's list is the need to increase tech consistency throughout a company's digital infrastructure. One example, Rutherford mentions, is ensuring applications are updated to the latest revision level on mobile devices, workstations, and if applicable servers. This is something veteran IT professionals aren't always keen on doing, because anytime software is updated, there is a risk the application will break.
"If it ain't broke don't fix it."
Rutherford is well aware that running out-of-date software may not be a problem right now, but keeping software up-to-date is being "consistent" and important when it comes to cybersecurity. "Problems are often caused by conflicting application sets, working processes, or hardware across the user base; for example, with staff working on different versions of key business application or on out-of-date laptops." he explains.
2: Improve employees' IT knowledge
Rutherford next writes about a subject near and dear to IT personnel. The more computer users understand about software, hardware, and how they work, the more helpful users will be when troubleshooting problems. Equally important, knowledgeable users are less likely to escalate minor issues and do so only after simple troubleshooting (i.e., making sure equipment is plugged in). Both will reduce employee and equipment downtime.
SEE: 10 ways to raise your users' cybersecurity IQ (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
3: Standardize equipment and software
Companies that have "standardized IT environments" across locations, divisions, and even continents have a distinct advantage in that employees no matter where they are can be productive. "Cloud-based applications such as Office 365 have done a lot to achieve this," writes Rutherford. "Applications like these (Office 365) enable staff to access the same documents, applications, and emails regardless of where they are located and what device they're using."
Put simply, the cloud helps:
- Improve productivity in the event of a hardware failure
- Provide a consistent experience for every staff member
SEE: System update policy (Tech Pro Research)
Something that IT departments will need to keep in mind, according to Rutherford, is a robust management framework. He explains:
"Guidelines like ISO 20000 are an extremely effective way for a business to ensure it is continually improving its IT service and will also help the company create a management system and clear structure that the business can build on for the future."
What is the number one cause of tech inconsistencies?
Back in 2009 when Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) became mainstream, IT personnel were horrified: How could any semblance of security be maintained? Nine years later, BYOD is still here and even more so with the explosive increase of mobile phones and tablets being used at or for work. Talk about an inconsistency time-sink, how does one resolve tech issues across multiple devices, operating systems, and remote workers?
SEE: BYOD Policy (Tech Pro Research)
IT departments are figuring it out, thankfully, but at what cost? "Even if a company has a standardized device policy in place, many businesses still lack the infrastructure that allows these devices and associated applications to work together effectively—such as easily transferring files from a mobile device to the desktop," cautions Rutherford. "Without a consistent system in place, staff will still struggle to utilize the technology available to them."
The final word
Rutherford is a realist... IT challenges cannot be eliminated. "Still, many IT challenges can be avoided by implementing the right tools and ensuring that staff know how to use them," concludes Rutherford. "This approach will not only prevent major losses of time and money if a problem occurs, but will also ensure that the business is operating efficiently at all times."
- The astonishing hidden and personal costs of IT downtime (and how predictive analytics might help) (ZDNet)
- 10 common causes of downtime and how to avoid them (TechRepublic)
- 10 ways to survive a critical system outage (TechRepublic)
- How to conduct a production outage post-mortem (TechRepublic)
- Security awareness and training policy (Tech Pro Research)