Having great technology in your business is not an option in 2023, it’s essential. Enabling productivity and efficiency gains in the workplace across an increasingly competitive landscape, having great tech is critical in gaining an edge and to your future business success.
Key to this challenge of optimising and efficiency are the IT resources in your office and their ability to cope with the growing complexity of systems and the perpetual need for increased levels of support.
Gone are the days of set and forget, businesses in 2023 are faced with an ever-changing landscape of on-prem and cloud services, increasing demands from the business and regulators, with growing expectations to do more with less. The only way that works is to work smarter, not harder.
With the right approach can you achieve the gains necessary to deliver positive business outcomes like a well-oiled machine. By having the right systems in place, you can reduce downtime, reduce frustration, and increase the job satisfaction of team members, simultaneously with organisation productivity.
Below are some practical tips and tricks to accomplish this objective.
Implement self-service portals
In years gone by, there was a strong inclination to pick up the phone from IT when things weren’t working as expected. When you consider the anatomy of a call, it skips any prioritisation and immediately demands the attention of the team, side-routing what would be the ideal workflow which would be to assess, prioritise and allocate each issue on its merits.
To help support customers to find answers for themselves and reduce the impact on IT support, you could and should implement self-service portals.
These often work by having a knowledge base sitting behind your helpdesk ticket system and as employees detail their issues, an advanced algorithm (often AI-powered) helps recommend a potential solution to them. If the user follows the prompt, they are often able to read on-demand help that helps resolve an issue before it’s ever logged as support requires.
Think of this as an advanced set of FAQs that gets tailored to your questions, or issues, and by providing an immediate answer to common problems it means the workload on your IT support team is effectively pre-validated and provides them with interesting challenges, rather than repetitive issues.
Self-service portals can include knowledge bases, FAQs, and troubleshooting guides. Top Helpdesk systems include Zendesk, Freshdesk, ServiceNow, Jira and more.
By providing easy-to-follow resources, you enable employees to find answers to their problems independently, freeing up IT support for more complex issues.
Proactive monitoring and maintenance
As discussed above, your business will always function better with proactive actions, rather than responsive, that is waiting for users to report that something is broken, rather than getting the necessary alerting in place to anticipate an issue, or at least be notified as soon as it happens.
The timeframe to resolve an issue once it arrives on your doorstep is never as long as you’d like, so to get that time back, reduce stress and improve customer outcomes, it is important that you apply mitigations in your IT systems before things break, avoiding higher operational costs like increased overtime for unplanned events and impacts to the reputation of the team or wider business.
The smart move is to employ advanced tools to monitor the performance of your network, servers, and workstations. This method enables early problem identification and resolution before disruptions occur in your team’s workflow.
Proactive maintenance not only saves time and money but also prevents the frustration of unexpected IT outages. It is also important to consider IT support services that are available to help ensure high-quality maintenance of your business systems.
Standardize equipment and software
While it is inviting to say yes to each individual request, that has a massive back-end consequence in terms of support demands on your office’s IT staff. Not only does it have a propensity to expand the hardware and software configurations beyond what is possible for any individual to retain, but the extra time, effort and money is often not returned to the business.
A far better approach is to standardise the hardware and software as much as possible which has a couple of benefits. Not only does it significantly streamline IT support, but it also reduces the upskilling and learning curve for new employees joining the organisation.
Uniform equipment and software usage simplifies troubleshooting and issue resolution as support staff become more acquainted with the systems. Furthermore, standardization can yield cost savings in both procurement and maintenance.
Offer Remote Support
Remote support is no longer an option in a world of hybrid workforces, modern IT support and screen sharing is often done using Teams, Zoom, TeamViewer, Service Now and even Microsoft’s built-in Quick Assist function in Windows. While some businesses still have a physical helpdesk, many are turning to fully remote support where staff who aren’t physically attending the office, still feel well supported.
The detail you receive during a support call, or ticket can be a great headstart, but there’s no substitute for seeing a problem, particularly those that can be easily replicated. A remote support session allows the IT staff to rapidly diagnose the issue and help resolve it.
Implementing remote support tools and solutions enables your IT team to assist employees, regardless of location. These tools can also be quite powerful, allowing the tech support team to get telemetry about the machine’s hardware and software configuration which can then be compared against the Standard Operating Environment (SOE).
Some solutions allow the support operator to apply patches, deploy software, restart and even kick off a machine refresh remotely, as is the case with Microsoft’s Windows Autopilot.
Remote Support options not only increase the efficiency of the support team to resolve issues rapidly. Quick resolutions to support requests will reduce workforce downtime and increase employee satisfaction as issues can be resolved promptly.
Automate Repetitive Tasks
Automation is a powerful tool for streamlining IT support. If you get good at identifying repetitive tasks, you can implement Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software to automate these tasks.
While the creation and sometimes maintenance of this automation can take time, what you should focus on are those tasks that impact the business the most, first. This means you’ll need to prioritise which problems you chase first, generally, it’s a good idea to estimate the current time taken on a task i.e. 10 hours per week and compare it against another i.e. 3 hours every other week and this will typically drive which you should develop automation for first.
As an example, it is possible to automate software updates, backups, and routine maintenance processes. It is also possible to automate virtually anything users do repetitively with keyboard and mouse inputs using tools like Microsoft Workflows (previously Power Automate).
By reducing manual intervention, you can free up your IT support team to focus on more critical tasks and improve overall efficiency. You also remove the risk that is present in all of us, human mistakes. Software doesn’t get tired, it doesn’t need sick leave, it doesn’t get hungry at 3PM, it comes back day after day and delivers, but you will need to be conscious that automation can be fragile to changes in the environment.
Prioritize user training
While most companies offer some level of IT training for their staff, those who invest heavily in user training will derive good benefits in reducing time lost to support.
It would be great to expect that all hires in 2023 are well versed in computers, with the majority of the workforce having grown up using computers, but that’s not necessarily the case. What’s important in this training is a level of personalisation that reflects he gap in knowledge between where the employee is and where the business needs them to be. There may also be specific roles that require a higher level of IT awareness, skills and knowledge than others.
Delivering enhanced user training on technology can help eliminate the basic IT questions about common hardware and software issues. Staff that are knowledgeable can often self-serve and even help each other across their teams.
If you can achieve a higher level of base knowledge through user training, you will reduce the likelihood of encountering issues and needing support.
Offering training sessions or access to on-demand online training resources, can improve user proficiency and reduce the need for IT support interventions. Well-trained employees can also provide valuable feedback on system improvements.
Implement a ticketing system
Managing inbound support requests means you have a prioritisation challenge and a structured ticket system can help dramatically with this. Many offerings allow you to auto-assign tickets to queues, allowing you to build a tiered support system that reflects your IT layers (Level 1, level 2 etc).
You can also slice queues a number of different ways, but based on the skills and experience of your IT support team is often a great technique. This ensures the people who receive tickets, often have the skills and knowledge required to resolve.
Having structured data allows you to create analytics and reports about key metrics or KPIs important to the business and help identify trends of similar issues that can lead to root cause analysis. Often with the right focus, underlying business and technology issues can be exposed through a system like this and changing the cause of an issue can help dramatically reduce business impact and ultimately the number of support requests caused as a result of it.
An example of this could be a problematic printer. In isolation, 5 IT support staff may see 1 ticket each over a 3 month period so they don’t think much of it. When a supervisor or manager looks at the data across the business, it will clearly show this printer is the source of regular problems and it may be decided the cheaper answer is to replace it.
A ticket system is generally available for all employees to submit support requests, enabling IT support teams to prioritize and track the resolution of issues. This avoids the challenges of phone calls and walk-ups gaining unnatural levels of priority or escalation.
Use a knowledge management systems
If you want your IT team to be efficient, then you should establish and build out a knowledge management system. This will enable your IT support team to efficiently capture, organize, and share information about common IT issues and their resolutions.
This ensures that common problems can be resolved more quickly, reducing the overall workload on your IT team. Having a central repository for this knowledge provides a great opportunity for new staff to skill up in the often vast array of software, services and configurations in an organisation.
When staff turnover occurs, one of the best gifts you can provide a new starter is somewhere to search and find process instructions or background on issues. Businesses that find the blend between a knowledge management system and the body of knowledge in a ticket system from previous cases, will be served well by delivering the right knowledge to the right users at the right time.
Outsource non-core functions
If your in-house IT team is overwhelmed with routine tasks or lacks expertise in specific areas, consider outsourcing non-core IT functions.
Many specialized IT service providers can offer cost-effective solutions for tasks like data backup, cybersecurity, or helpdesk support.
Outsourcing can free up your in-house team to focus on strategic initiatives and core IT functions while ensuring that specialized tasks are handled efficiently. We all have work tasks that we don’t enjoy and removing many of those tasks from your high-value (and high-cost) employees, can enable them to deliver bigger benefits to the organisation through innovation and project work.
Streamlining IT support in your office is crucial for boosting productivity and minimizing downtime.
By implementing self-service portals, proactive monitoring and maintenance, standardization, remote support, automation, user training, ticketing systems, knowledge management, and outsourcing (where appropriate), you can optimize your IT support investment.
The result will be a more efficient and productive workplace where IT issues are handled swiftly and effectively. That way, your team can focus on what they do best.
*Disclaimer: Some links in this article are sponsored.