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IT plays a major role in keeping the wheels of business churning throughout an organization. Yet, when it’s time to mitigate company-wide operational costs, IT departments are one of the first to have their resources cut back. Even with these cutbacks in place, IT departments are still held to the same performance and responsiveness standards as before. This is the most common recipe for an overworked IT department and it is an issue that is being faced by CTO’s and CIO’s across a variety of industries today.

As with any business problem, there are symptoms of an overworked IT department that can be identified early on to help companies determine whether they’re in need of an IT automation solution or have to outsource additional IT support. If several of the following situations I am about to describe sound familiar, you can examine these symptoms in more detail to diagnose the pain points in your IT department accurately and then, of course, take the right steps to alleviate the work stress of your staff members.

  1. Low Employee Morale

A dip in employee satisfaction levels often correlates directly to an influx of disproportionate work—disproportionate because such an amount of work calls for greater labor and technical resources than are currently available. Most understaffed IT departments can “weather the storm” so to speak for some time, but if a department’s workload remains consistently heavy over a period of time, chances are it’ll drain the morale of its employees. This type of work environment is conducive towards an increased turnover rate. Ultimately, employees will either decide to join another organization’s IT department, burn themselves out trying to save the day—also known as the “hero effect”—or stay long enough to see their overall performance levels decline and end up being let go. This is the first red flag that should be noted by IT managers.

  1. Shift in Performance

Once low employee morale has taken hold, it doesn’t take long before an IT department’s performance levels start to go down. The key metrics that tend to suffer first are average resolution time, first response speed and how many tickets are carrying over day-to-day. A lack of employee enthusiasm is a part of decreased departmental performance, but at the same time, IT employees can be working as quickly as they can and still not meet respectable performance metrics because of the unrelenting amount of tickets making their way into a department. Simply put, a large enough workload can counter all the individual efforts of team members. And, working at an accelerated pace opens the door for errors, which can further backlog an already-extensive IT ticket queue.

  1. Increased Short-Sightedness

Aside from having difficulty keeping up with IT tickets on a day-to-day basis, overworked IT departments will find it next to impossible to keep large projects from getting delayed because labor resources can only stretch so far. Given that day-to-day IT responsibilities are running in parallel with other ongoing assignments, more and more project tasks will continue to be placed on a mounting to-do list. These relegated projects are generally long-term and are vital in keeping an IT department’s infrastructure agile and on par with a company’s evolving business strategy. Putting off these kinds of projects is a sure sign that there’s been a shift in department ideology from establishing greater operability in the future to strictly working in the present.

  1. A Professional Step Back

Not only are infrastructure changes of an IT organization placed on the back burner, but overworked IT departments also relegate the continued training and enhancement of their staff’s IT skillset to a later date. In an overworked IT department there simply is no time to nurture IT talent because the focus of every day is to address as many tickets and related issues as possible. Staff members are stuck in their current roles out of operational necessity and this fuels employee dissatisfaction and further contributes to a higher turnover rate. How are employees supposed to grow professionally if they are handling high-quantity, repetitive L1 issues as soon as they walk in the door?

  1. Disregard for Protocol

In addition to trading in a department’s long-term viability to complete immediate tasks, another side effect of an overworked department lies in the manner in which short-term tasks are handled. With all the standard protocols in place to ensure IT tickets go through all the necessary channels on their way to resolution, the pressure being exerted on IT staff to resolve issues quickly coerces them into moments where bypassing these protocols becomes second nature. These processes have been devised to act as a safety net in the event a resolution process turns convoluted and strays from the path of successful completion. Once a department begins to deviate from standard protocol such as recording the progress of a ticket, for instance, it becomes time-consuming to retrace the steps of a failed resolution process and in return affects the performance metrics of the whole department.

Each of the symptoms described above are in many ways interrelated and carry a snowball effect, which can end up costing an organization significant dollars if they aren’t detected promptly and an effective solution is implemented.

Today, companies are still trying to determine how many IT professionals are necessary to maintain peak performance levels within an IT department without sacrificing too much in operational costs. Before simply pursuing ways to increase staff or offload tasks to offshore teams, it’s wise to take a deeper look at automation technologies that can streamline the workload. Examine the potential for automating common L1 and L2 issues to alleviate the daily pressure on your staff and open the door to smarter allocation of onsite labor.  Not only will you improve departmental efficiency, you’ll also make it possible to create the headroom for more challenging and stimulating roles for your staff.