Yes, IT can deliver an end to pointless toil

Positive change is achieved by incremental steps

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to push a stone up to the top of a hill only for it to fall all the way back down again, and to do this perpetually.

The gods knew there was no worse punishment than continuous, futile labour - a truism relevant today. In offices all over the world people push digital rocks up the organisational hill.

Statistics abound of time wasted each day at the office - the one resource no one has enough of. For example, the time spent duplicating information or searching for documents that we know exist but cannot find. There seems to be something of Sisyphus in many of us today.

Faced with the fact that our industry has caused much of the problem in over promising the benefits of IT - thus removing swathes of secretaries from supporting hard-working professionals - I see it as our mission to grind down the virtual mountain that looms before us every time we log-on (presuming that IT infrastructure and peripherals are not part of the problem).

However, reducing individual effort should not simply mean transferring it to other shoulders.

So how does one go about this? No one will, or should, notice you doing it. This means that changes need to be made in many small, incremental steps. The policy of "following the money" is a good place to start.

Search out the largest cost areas of the budget. If a cost centre accounts for more than 10% of expense for an organisation it is clear that any improvement in efficiency will have both clear business and financial benefits.

Look at the processes whether it is booking leave, management information reporting or developing budgets, the key is to have an active, ongoing dialogue with the business users.

IT as a rule crosses departmental barriers and understands organisational stovepipes. Use this knowledge to understand the hubs of the organisation where easing bottlenecks can produce quick wins.

Last, think twice before embarking on projects that cannot be delivered within a single budget or planning cycle. Many initiatives die because the requirements change over time.

If senior management moves on, a sponsor changes role, or the business landscape has simply changed in the meantime, IT often gets blamed for not delivering on its promises. .

As IT management it is our duty to manage knowledge, activities and expectations: to explain the positives, negatives, ben­e-fits and risks of our initiatives in a non-technical way and not fool ourselves into believing the big project will come in on time and on budget.

There are simply too many external pressures. So break your delivery down to small initiatives and let each produce positive incremental change. The Earth's most efficient hill is the one that was around before Sisyphus - the ant hill.

Michael Pincher is information systems and facilities manager at Cross London Rail Links

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