Managing your time can be very challenging in a busy IT department with requests and competing priorities coming at you from all angles. In this post, we explore the importance of time management for every IT professional – mainly how automation helps to alleviate your time pressures concerning email signature deployment and management.
Why is IT so time-poor?
IT skills shortages are a global phenomenon, meaning IT departments are typically understaffed – a major problem within growing businesses. Exacerbating this is the universal trend toward greater technology adoption and digital transformation of business processes and hybrid working practices. This leads to heightened expectations from individual users and the organization at large, further compounding time pressures.
These and related factors result in IT professionals being very time-poor.
Why is time management important for IT professionals?
As with any finite resource, it must be spent carefully when time is scarce. Time management is the mechanism for deciding how time should be planned and allocated for maximum benefit.
Working without time management means no control over how time will be spent in advance. Instead of work being strategically planned in line with business objectives and a shared understanding of prioritization, it is carried out on a ‘best efforts’ basis according to what each individual believes is appropriate. This is a recipe for conflict and inefficiency.
Good time management practices enable organizations to:
On a personal level, IT professionals benefit enormously from good time management practices in the following ways:
The main time management issues affecting IT professionals
IT people aren’t unique in being subject to time management pressures. However, a combination of factors disproportionately affects them, owing to the precise dynamics associated with their work.
IT’s stressful combination of planned work and unplanned requests
IT departments operate simultaneously at both ends of the strategic–tactical spectrum. At the tactical end, they are customer support centers servicing the needs of IT users as their ‘customers’. Just like an external-facing customer support department, the IT function has little idea how many inquiries it will receive in a given day or what they will be about.
However, unlike customer-facing departments, the IT team must divide its available time with significantly more strategic considerations. These include service innovation, application development, data science, and adopting next-generation IT solutions and architectures.
In both cases – tactical and strategic – the impact of not fulfilling the required work is counterproductive. A user waiting for IT support is unproductive, but worse still is when they decide they have waited long enough, taking matters into their own hands and (disastrously) attempting to remedy the issue themselves. Likewise, a strategic project that does not progress in a timely fashion may be delivered late and over budget, which would be problematic enough before you consider the potential loss of market competitiveness or brand trust that the delay has also created.
IT professionals must ultimately juggle all these priorities using the same finite bank of available time.
IT’s real conflict between urgent and important tasks
The workload saddled upon IT departments is significant, and at its heart is always a conflict between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ tasks. In reality, the urgency of day-to-day operations typically takes priority because IT users have needs and expectations that must be met to use technology to be effective in their roles. This can make time management exceptionally challenging.
This is akin to a healthcare organization prioritizing emergency patients more than patients with chronic conditions. This makes sense when the emergencies are genuinely life-threatening but is unsustainable if extended to every patient that attends the emergency room. Taking the analogy to its logical conclusion, it’s just a matter of time until all ‘important’ chronic patients steadily turn into ‘urgent’ ER cases. In the IT department, this same inevitable process will transfer a steady stream of ‘urgent’ tasks from the ‘important’ pile of tasks simply by failing to prioritize strategically.
In IT departments, there is the constant threat of noisy, expectant users ‘creating’ urgency. What’s left is a sense of never having the impetus to properly focus on less urgent priorities of greater overall strategic importance.
The upshot for time management is helping IT professionals chart a course through the mixture of ‘important’ versus ‘urgent’ tasks and responsibilities.
IT is more likely to take on responsibility than delegate it
IT people are no more generous or forgiving than other workers. But because they operate under conditions that continually leave departments short-staffed and individuals lacking support, the need to take on extra workloads and responsibilities is neverending.
This is crucial to understand because a commonly cited solution to time management is to be better at delegating to others. This is particularly difficult for IT people when no one is suitable to delegate to.
IT’s learning burden and the weight of growing complexity
IT is a technical discipline that requires practitioners to maintain and acquire the latest skills. Therefore, IT professionals must be able to dedicate a proportion of their time to learning and development (L&D).
Sometimes this isn't easy to balance with day-to-day responsibilities. This can risk de-skilling IT professionals or their static skillsets failing to keep pace with external market and technology change.
This can happen when skills are already being stretched by the effect of short-staffing and a lack of suitable employee candidates to hire from. An IT professional who specializes in, for example, database administration might be required to cover duties in adjacent disciplines such as infrastructure management, cybersecurity, or desktop computing. Being asked to cover areas they are weaker in naturally makes them less efficient and effective at the required tasks.
The whole issue is compounded when organizations commit to internal change without factoring in the L&D impact on the IT team. As technology becomes incrementally more powerful and IT environments more hybrid, everything becomes more complex to manage.
How technology helps with time management at work
There are lots of ways to address time management challenges using technology. Here are five of the most common groups:
Some of the earliest and most enduring business applications are productivity apps. Think of the word processor, for example. We’re still seeing plenty of innovation here as individuals seek to utilize the apps that fit their particular work styles and squeeze every last ounce of productivity. These are all designed to either make tasks faster to accomplish or to optimize the process of time management in your day. Examples include:
These are just as valid for IT pros as anyone else who seeks to optimize their time management.
Time tracking systems
Time management isn’t practical unless you actually measure time. Time tracking software is so simple, yet adoption rates can be low because they take some getting used to.
As with any input recording system, the value comes from interpreting the output data and improving based on that. For example, seeing how long the same task takes on average and trying to improve on it. At its most basic level, tracking your time provides a baseline measurement for where you are on day one, helps ‘T-shirt size’ the work required for certain types of tasks, and gives deeper insights into work patterns.
Time tracking is a valuable tool for anyone charting their time management success hour by hour, let alone month by month.
Unified communications and collaboration platforms
Communication is the lifeblood of any organization, particularly among distributed teams of people following their own home-based, office-based, or hybrid working preferences. Unified comms and collaboration (UCC) technology is essential for efficiently combining the many types of working together into one place – be that messages, interactions, meetings, or contributing to shared documents – allowing people to multitask and multiteam.
Yet again – this is great for every kind of worker, not just those in the IT department.
Now we’re getting into more advanced kinds of technology that help individuals and teams achieve optimum time management.
‘Orchestration’ covers a wide spectrum of software platforms that promote maximum visibility and control over underlying processes and tasks. For example, a CRM (customer relationship management) platform allows any view of customer data and for actions concerning customer data to be activated immediately.
Technology that delivers orchestration in this way is typically a centralized point for all relevant data, allowing for completeness and 360-degree oversight. And while data is brought together in one place, this doesn’t prevent administrators from controlling orchestration from anywhere via the cloud.
Orchestration technology is a common feature of IT departments, with different software implementations supporting specific business functions.
Automation is simply the introduction of automatic, machine-driven capabilities into a typically manual process. Information technology has automated a great deal of previously manual processes to the extent that, to the modern observer, it’s hard to imagine how organizations could ever have operated without software, computing devices, and the internet. The opportunity remains to push automation further into how humans work to make processes faster, more efficient, more accurate, and more transparent.
In IT, technologists have brought significant automation to various business functions within typical organizations and across industry sectors. From accountancy to zoology, there isn’t an automation opportunity that hasn’t been identified and at least partially converted.
What’s strange (but true) is that, despite these advances, IT professionals still consume much of their time carrying out manual, repetitive tasks – what Google refers to as ‘toil’. The hope is that, by better understanding how processes work, automation can be applied to remove or minimize human intervention to save time. Some more advanced automation applications draw on artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.
Using email signature software to improve time management
Being able to manage and control the email signature for all email users in our business in one place is great for Helen Bridges, Shred Station- and allows us to keep the signature standard and on-brand easily.
The repetitive manual tasks of managing email signatures
Receipt of an individual change or setup request must be captured, interpreted, recorded, and queued for execution.
Execution of the email signature build or change is conducted by manually adjusting the account settings of the email system for each user. This requires qualified IT professionals to ensure the right settings are changed. Getting this wrong could result in messy or inaccurate email signatures or even prevent a user from sending emails.
Manual testing ensures the email signature renders correctly across devices and platforms.
This can be a significant overhead when scaled across hundreds or thousands of users, directly impacting an IT professional's time management processes. The issue can become particularly acute whenever:
How specialist email signature management software works
Email signature management software from leading providers like Exclaimer automates email signature deployment to boost time efficiency and support prioritizing more important and challenging tasks.
The 7 ways email signature software affects time management
Administering changes to email signatures is far faster and easier. One-time updates can be applied to multiple users or groups. The net effect is fewer hours spent on a task IT professionals find unrewarding.
Omits IT from non-IT tasks
IT pros no longer have to be involved in all aspects of email signature management. Marketing colleagues can be granted access to signature designers and campaign management. At the same time, end users can update specific personal email signature details without compromising the integrity of directory services.
Enables finite resources to focus on more strategic tasks and projects
The IT department's resources are less thinly stretched with a faster and more frictionless email signature management system. This claws back valuable time that can be spent on innovations rather than operations-based work.
Removes haste from internal operations
Good email signature management means no more rushing to catch up on queued-up change tasks. It contributes toward a calmer work environment that fosters greater accuracy, with more space and time to make reliable, well-considered decisions.
Accelerates digital onboarding of new employees
New starters based anywhere can be embraced and equipped more rapidly as part of a fully digital onboarding process. This allows organizations to optimize the success of new hires, safeguard employee retention and start gaining value from day one.
Makes IT users more productive
It isn’t just IT teams that become more productive with email signature management – all IT users benefit from a slicker system that works the way it should. Email signatures never slow users down because the organization is making the best use of this valuable email ‘real estate’ to drive interactions, promote a consistent brand experience, and deliver clear messages to the market.
A better email signature management approach spells an easier ride for the IT support desk. By reducing the number of unpredicted inquiries to the IT department, disruption is minimized, and the planning of individual and team time allocations is straightforward.
The benefits that Exclaimer is helping me solve is cutting down on hours of administration having to look after individual users' signatures. With Exclaimer you can have a single email template that is consistent across all employees. Adding users to signatures is a breeze. It has saved the company money by Read moreon administration.
Improve time management today with Exclaimer
Save time and effort by using email signature software by Exclaimer today. Sign up for a free trial of one of our award-winning solutions, or book yourself in for a comprehensive demonstration with one of our product experts.
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