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Productivity: IT pros to the rescue

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Desktop There are tools and services that enable service desks to deliver all kinds of services to keep the desktop estate running smoothly, but how does it prove its impact on employee productivity and what steps can be taken to improve it?

Most companies aren't in the technology business; the products and services they deliver - the way the companies actually make money - are nothing to do with IT. But the way they do business relies more and more on technology, so losing productivity to a PC problem isn't just an inconvenience; it's a business problem - and IT has to approach it that way.

The IT team has to deliver worker productivity and real business outcomes, not just new software and hardware. And productivity isn’t always doing more of the same thing or doing it faster; it might be about doing something different and it’s really about doing the right thing (and at the right time).

That means knowing what value IT delivers to the business as well as what it costs, knowing what business processes have a real impact on the bottom line and keeping those running smoothly. Business units need to put figures on the value those business processes deliver, so IT can prioritise and improve productivity on what actually matters because everyone knows the cost of employees not being able to do that part of their job.

That’s not just about measuring downtime or knowing how long it takes to talk someone through get their PC back online - around 25 minutes for desktop connectivity issues in one Intel study - or about knowing the cost of running a specific server or application that users need to connect to.

It's about calculating the business impact of someone not being able to get the information they need, access the service that lets them do their job or collaborate with colleagues. Using IT effectively can increase sales growth and make it more profitable, but how do you relate that back to the productivity of individual users and what the IT department does to keep their PC running smoothly?

Desktop tools

IT teams spend a lot of time keeping desktops running, by running over to the desk: Intel’s figures say 52 per cent of the time goes on deskside visits, 15 per cent on helpdesk calls, 11 per cent on patch management, just four per cent on engineering, and the rest on overhead. Automation, managed desktops, streamlined installation and recovery, self-service for basic helpdesk needs like password replacement; there are plenty of tools you can use to make much more effective use of IT team for dealing with desktop issues.

But when you look at business productivity, the key factors are a mix of usability, familiarity, flexibility, collaboration, transactional efficiency, which comes down to effectiveness, speed and reliability, and business insight such as reporting, real-time access and visibility into other departments.

Keeping productivity high is about more strategic issues than just end-user productivity on specific tasks. Don’t just think about keeping the PCs turned on, think about connecting them to the information and services that business users need – as well as keeping the desktops optimised and managed to avoid disruptive downtime.

Provisioning desktops with access to corporate resources, whether that’s mapping drives to file shares, single sign-on to SharePoint document sites, pre-populated search federation for accessing network resources as if they were on the desktop or full-blown BI systems, gives users the information they need to make decisions.

Patch work

A good patch management system means the time and effort goes on testing updates to make sure you can roll them out in a timely fashion, and do it out of hours so you’re not stopping someone working while you’re keeping their system secure. The same goes for optimising an obscure database issue; upgrading the server could be a lot cheaper than losing sales or customer support calls or analyst productivity while you tweak.

When IT agrees service level agreements with business units, it’s not just about hours and minutes of availability (for desktops or servers). You need to benchmark systems to make sure they deliver and be able to put a cost on computing that takes into account how many users need to complete what tasks with what resources on what timescale. Then you can use a portfolio planning system that lets you take all this into account so you can shift the balance of the IT budget from maintenance to developing systems that deliver all of this more efficiently and at scale.

The desktop is critical because it’s still where most business users need to be productive, but when you measure how IT can have an impact on that you need to think more broadly, and from a business point of view. ®

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