Productivity Gains Can Start in Small Places
Many businesses fall into a trap by focusing on core processes for productivity gains while ignoring potentially hundreds of small, tedious, administrative tasks that threaten to bog down the team. The flow of work, pace of decisions and even responsiveness to customers can be severely hampered by these tasks while the business strives to solve bigger challenges. At some point the cumulative effect of such non-core and yet required tasks becomes a drag on the ability to perform and grow.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the information technology division of the business. IT is where the priorities of the business go be converted into efficient and productive systems. Nowhere in the list of priorities did a host of administrative tasks appear as a priority and you would not expect to find them there considering the importance of core processes that drive the operation of the business. However, the productivity gains that may be achieved with just a small bit of attention to these tasks can have a dramatic ability to free up precious employee time to focus on getting the more important job done.
The IT organization supported by the heads of various business and operating divisions, have become masters at hunting buffaloes. No measly squirrels for them. They are so busy preparing the big guns, hunting parties and horses to go and hunt for the buffaloes that they are seemingly unaware that the squirrels are stealing their stash of nuts that was supposed to provide energy during the winter months. In much the same way, the focus on large projects allows the burden of many small administrative tasks to steal away valuable time and productivity.
In fact, they appear so determined to hunt buffaloes that when a squirrel is presented to them as an opportunity they will spend days and even months working to convert it into a buffalo worthy of their attention. Along the way, the employees and even department heads becomes increasingly frustrated at the need to perform so many tasks manually when a simple automated solution seems self-evident. Occasionally, individual departments will find a small budget and go outside to find a third party who may be able to help them.
Of course, since IT establishes the rules about what is acceptable technology, solutions and even providers, going outside the company often ends in a political tangle that only further complicates the issue. As businesses evaluate their priorities for investing in the development and automation of key business processes and managing the flow of information through the operation, they should include a review of the administrative tasks being performed, the frequency at which they are performed, the number of employees performing the same task, the time consumed and the potential for errors. Core operations or customer facing systems will always be assigned the highest priority, but ignoring these tasks can result in a huge productivity drag.
Determine what it will take to hunt the buffalo in the most efficient manner with the most proficient resources and leave some small unit behind to go after the squirrels to protect your stash of nuts. This small unit of technical IT staff must be empowered to identify specific administrative tasks and deal with them one at a time without being forced to convert each into a buffalo first. You may just find that the overall productivity and employee satisfaction in your business increase dramatically. You also find there are fewer buffalo to hunt than you assumed, as your team has been so adept at converting every squirrel into a buffalo that requires a lot more resources and time to resolve.