Do you know what you are doing? Do you know what your staff are doing? Pretty basic questions, but ones that it is tempting to ignore. We are not talking about competence here, but about how you and your staff spend your time.
There is plenty of talk these days about how the IT department should be the driver of business change, with the chief information officer confidently steering the board towards a wealth of new business opportunities.
It can take the sheen off such glamorous prospects to find out in terms of actual hours and minutes just how much time IT staff spend on support and routine administrative processes.
However, for those IT departments that bite the bullet and submit themselves to the discipline of formal time recording, the reward can be a clear and detailed view of the real-life IT that makes change possible and opens the door to new opportunities.
On page 30 we examine the challenges and benefits of time recording and find that those who have used it have been surprised to learn just how hard IT staff work and to see so clearly how those efforts can bear greater fruits.
So if you are battling for greater influence for IT at all levels of the business, make sure you are clear about how your are using your resources. Knowing what you are doing helps you know where you are going.
Helping the business
For many employees the only regular contact they have with IT staff is when they call the helpdesk. So it is a pity that this is seen as a fairly unglamorous area for a lot of IT departments, and perhaps one that is best outsourced.
In fact, as our feature article on page 38 makes clear, it pays to make the helpdesk really work as part of your business. That means it must be staffed by those who not only know their technical onions, but by those whose people skills are second to none and who have a clear handle on how the business operates.
It does not help that working on the helpdesk is often seen as a stepping stone to greater things. Any sense of a lack of commitment and enjoyment of the task at hand will soon communicate itself to everyone in the organisation from the boardroom to the postroom.
The reputation of your helpdesk will affect IT's dealings in every area of the business - make sure it is a good one.
This was first published in October 2005