Do you know of a business where the executives also oversee tech support? Often we see one of the leaders of the company take on the IT support role. What is the real cost when a key person adds technology to their job description?
Let me share with you the condition we found one company in at the start of the engagement. We engaged not only to look at the technical level [the servers, security, backup, business continuity, etc] but also interviewed key employees, managers and the partners to understand how technology was serving and failing in the company.
The company had six servers in production, and another ten or so in various states. Virtualization often enables technology sprawl, which is a topic for another day. They had about thirty users. The server structure was about four years old, while the workstations were about eighteen months old on average, and they had just recently removed all of the pesky Windows XP systems to eliminate the security holes.
One of the partners of the business oversaw tech support. He had some sales and operational lead responsibilities [his true strengths], but because he was less intimidated by technology than the other partners, he was tagged to be over IT services.
After interviews it became clear that all technology funneled through this partner. Let’s call him Bob to make this easier. If a workstation was not working properly, you call Bob. If you cannot print, call Bob. If you cannot get to the internet, a form will not load, or you have problems using the VPN to get in, once again, call Bob.
The Staff Reveals:
In one conversation to a manager when we asked, “what do you do when there is a problem?” The answer came back, “well I go to Bob, but Bob is busy and he is so important that our department actually tries to solve the problem ourselves first.” Only if the system was completely down would they seek Bob out. They proudly shared that they had created work-a-rounds that we have been doing for a couple years now.
We dug a little deeper into the work-a-rounds and found that a simple task that should have taken less than a minute or so if the system was working right, was taking ten to twelve minutes to do. They did this work around five to six times a day.
Other departments had similar stories on how they did their own backups, and printed then rescanned documents, etc. All this extra work that was being done, because they did not want to interrupt Bob.
Hours of employee time was being lost on work-a-rounds. Bob may have been doing the work, but the real cost to the company was very large.
The Partners Reveal:
In interviews with other partners we heard similar things. Bob is the go to for technology support. Bob is good, but we still tend to live with problems. Nobody is perfect and they knew that their own departments were not bullet proof, so it was hard to bring up technical frustrations without some finger pointing in the back ground.
Another real pain the CFO divulged was that Bob’s other responsibilities were often not accomplished because of time spent on technical support. Sales and strategic relationships were not moving forward at the desired target. He felt that the business would benefit if Bob would focus more on the strategic business items and less on servicing the IT.
In the interview with Bob, it was revealed that:
Times are tough, we all need to do all we can. Bob took pride that he was saving the company a lot of money by taking the work and responsibility on himself. He was a little frustrated that at times he felt that the other partners did not appreciate all that he was doing. Yes, at times he was not able to focus on other important tasks, but he was saving the company. Often without him the technology would have stopped completely if he was not doing that work.
The burden was significant. He confessed that sometimes he would avoid walking out on the floor, because he would get bombarded with technology support based request. He stated that sometimes he would enter through the back door as to avoid the technical requests.
He also shared that technology seems to keep expanding, and what was once simpler is now increasing in options, configurations and choices. Bob was stressed about the backup, security and lost user support requests.
Bob’s time allocation was: two days a week on technology, two days on operations and one day on sales.
Bob was clearly busy, but he had good intentions to save the company money by taking the responsibility for the IT support. But if we step back and observe there is much we can gain from this insight.
- Bob felt he was saving the company but a lot of time and resources were really being spent on work-a-rounds.
- Employees were unable to get the help they needed to be more effective. They regularly created new and used work-a-rounds to get work done. Their tolerance of slower performance was increased.
- Sales and strategic relationships were not getting the attention they deserved. It is easy to see that lower sales and strategic relationships have a large impact on business growth and success.
- Bobs stress and burnout levels were high and job satisfaction was low.
- Communication problems and frustrations between partners escalated.
- Often we view an employee as the cheapest resource to address a problem. It is easy to do. But in truth, we need to look at the whole costs and impact of a resource.
- The “Who” when it comes to tech support responsibility is just as important as the what, when and how.
We are now engaged with them and the support burden has been placed elsewhere. Backup and business continuity is verified daily. Security and reports are reviewed. Employees and partners are able to call or email and get support. They are no longer concerned to ask for help. Work-a-rounds are being evaluated and eliminated returning time back to increase productivity.
Time is being spent beyond the support mode. Business plans and technology initiatives are being aligned, budgets and KPIs(Key Performance Indicators) are being developed to hold technology to delivering commensurate to the plan. To further increase predictability, funding, documentation and standards are being completed. Also, SLA (Service Level Agreements) are being measured and maintained.
We take pride in the fact that Bob has now doubled time on sales and increased time to improve overall operations, due to improved processes of their tech support.
So the point is, what are you really best at? Think about the activities that yield the greatest results, success, and satisfaction for you. How much energy are you wasting on activities that you feel are “saving” the company? Have you truly thought about the cost of focusing on tasks that are not in your expertise?
When we place our efforts on the tasks we do best, great things get accomplished.
Until next time –
I wish you the best