Why 2024 is the Year to Streamline Your IT Operations and Save Time
As we head full steam into 2024, the start of a new year is always a great time to turn over a new leaf, whether in your personal or business life. But did you know you could gain many valuable benefits by making 2024 the year you streamline IT operations in your business?
In this useful blog, we’ll share our insights on how to do it successfully. Let’s make 2024 your year of change.
1 – The Growing Need for Efficient IT Operations
Like most businesses you’re likely trying to operate in a competitive industry on a tight budget, so it’s vital you squeeze as much value as possible out of your existing resources and IT estate. Outdated or unwieldy IT operations can slow you down.
Time is the one finite resource in your business – and you can never get it back once it’s gone. Just think, what you and your team could do with the gift of more time? Your IT services should save you time, but all too often, it creates more work than it takes away. Streamlining IT operations (e.g, Information security or managed IT support) along with upgrading and simplifying your systems could free up valuable time for you to focus on what matters, driving your business forward.
2 – Key Challenges Faced by Businesses in IT Operations
Managing your IT operations – particularly if technology isn’t your area of expertise – can be daunting for many business owners. Technology is a fast-moving world, full of acronyms and jargon, sold by vendors that promise miracles.
Let’s examine three areas where poor IT operations can slow down your business.
2.1 – Outdated Systems and Processes
If you haven’t audited the IT tools for a few years, you’re likely working with outdated products and creating problems for yourself, your team, and your business.
For example, your infrastructure may contain several software solutions with overlapping features (Google’s G-Suite and Microsoft Teams for example). This could mean you’re duplicating work, frustrating your team and even slowing them down. Additionally, the more tools you have in your business, the more complex (and expensive) it is to scale efficiently as your business grows.
2.2 – Lack of Integration and Communication
If you have too many IT tools in your system for too long, it’s likely they don’t play nicely together. To get the most from your tech stack, your tools need to integrate seamlessly.
Crucially when your software doesn’t integrate, it leads to data generated by your tools and applications, becoming siloed in different departments rather than visible across your entire organisation. Data is your company’s primary asset and used correctly can provide vital customer and business information to help your organisation thrive. When you don’t use your data to its full potential, you miss out on significant benefits. For example, improved decision making, creating actionable KPIs on utilisation, getting to know your customers, and enhancing your marketing operations.
2.3 – Security Risks and Data Breaches
Outdated and unused software on your system can cause severe IT security headaches. When tools sit in your business unnoticed, they probably aren’t being updated. Software updates frequently contain patches to block the latest versions of cyber-attacks. Therefore, when you don’t update, you leave your system vulnerable and your business open to attack.
2022 research by vulnerability remediation vendor Automox discovered that unpatched vulnerabilities caused 60% of all data breaches that year*. Data breaches can destroy your company’s reputation and cost you thousands in fines. Why put your business at risk?
3 – Benefits of Streamlined IT Operations
The good news is that when you optimise the structure of your IT estate, ensuring the right tools are in the right hands of the right people, integrated and up-to-date, the value can be game-changing.
Let’s look at the benefits in more detail. Which ones could make the difference to your business in 2024?
3.1 – Increased Efficiency and Productivity
Fit for purpose and optimised, software used in the right way makes your business more efficient. It makes your processes run smoother, minimises duplication, takes care of repetitive tasks, and reduces the need for unnecessary work for your team.
When you streamline IT operations, your team gets their time back to do what they do best rather than wrestling with unnecessary and unwieldy processes. In turn, increasing productivity and freeing them up to focus on the tasks that will have the most business impact.
A 2023 survey from Harvard Business Review** found that:
- 90% of workers surveyed said automation solutions make them more productive
- 85% said tools boost collaboration across teams
- 80% said tools give them more time to engage with customers and other stakeholders
What would you give for a productivity boost like that in your business?
3.2 – Cost Savings and Resource Optimisation
Keeping your overheads low and getting the most from your IT estate is essential in today’s digital world. If you’re paying for IT tools that your team don’t use anymore, or if they don’t deliver what you need, you’re not getting the best value from your IT investment.
Streamlining IT operations in today’s subscription-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world could actually result in you paying less and achieving more. With SaaS tools, you only pay for the features and services you need, and you can cancel your subscription if you don’t need them anymore. An adept professional from a managed service provider can be indispensable in assisting you to assess and comprehend the genuine requirements of your business. For example, perhaps you are paying for more Salesforce or Microsoft licences than you need? Do you have a defined process for cancelling licences without losing data when someone leaves your business?
3.3 – Auditing Your Tech Stack and Cyber Essentials
Auditing and streamlining your tech stack removes those outdated programs that can potentially leave your entire organisation vulnerable to cyber-attacks. However, this is not where the cyber and data security benefits end.
Another big advantage of today’s SaaS-based solutions is that all software and IT security updates are done automatically for you, so you can sleep easy knowing you’re as cyber-secure as possible.
An excellent way to gauge your information security setup is to audit your system against the UK Government’s Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus frameworks. It helps you identify your security priorities and follow industry-wide best practices ***.
4 – Technology Trends Driving IT Operations in 2024
Now you know the value of streamlining your IT operations, let’s look at the possibilities that lie ahead for you. If you’re not immersed in the tech world, it’s easy to miss the incredible potential available to you.
One of the most hotly anticipated predictors of what’s coming in tech is Gartner’s Top Ten Tech Trends for 2024. We’ve taken a look at the most exciting and relevant IT operations trends identified by Gartner, which we believe will have the most impact for our customers in the coming year.
4.1 – Augmented-Connected Workforce
The augmented-connected workforce (ACWF) is a strategy to get more from human workers by using technology to accelerate and scale talent. The tech involved includes smart applications and data analytics, helping to develop skills, guide in best practices and drive results.
This is something we see happening today, notably in the capital and financial markets where hybrid working, productivity and connectivity go hand-in-hand. Find out more about how businesses are responding to the recent seismic changes in the workplace, especially since the pandemic, in our “Workquake” research piece.
4.2 – Cloud Computing
Cloud computing, where IT services are provided over the internet rather than living on static on-premise systems, is nothing new but is still hugely relevant for streamlining your IT operations. Here’s why:
- Most organisations already run a sizable proportion of their IT operations through the cloud. Including data backup, disaster recovery, email, virtual desktops, software development, data analytics, and customer-facing web apps.
- SaaS applications are cost-effective, with automatic updates adding features and boosting security. A great SaaS application is Evergreen, it learns, it evolves, it even solves problems you might not know you have.
- With cloud computing, you only pay for what you use. It’s easy to manage, flexible and scalable.
- Cloud computing tools help your people collaborate seamlessly, whether in the office, at home or anywhere else.
- As cloud software is delivered over the internet, you no longer need to invest in expensive hardware and software ahead of time. You also require less space for your IT infrastructure. Power/cooling, hardware maintenance contracts and physical space are all big downsides of having hardware. Not to mention the burden of the CapEx needed to establish the set up.
4.3 – Data Management and Collection
We’re now living in the age of generative AI, with various models available and being used worldwide. Gartner predicts that by 2026, 80% of enterprises will be using GenAI models and apps in production environments, up from 5% at the start of 2023****.
However, this proliferation of AI use can create new risks. For example, imagine if your payroll data was ingested by AI and could be queried by anyone in your business?
The data in your organisation you need must be clean, accurate, and structured correctly.
As part of your IT operations streamlining, we strongly recommend that you ensure your data is organised and classified correctly in your CRM and other systems. Good labelling makes sure your AI only assesses the information you want it to, and that sensitive information is handled safely.
At Doherty Associates, we help businesses like yours leverage data analytics and insights to make more informed decisions. We’ll help you build a clear understanding of how IT runs in your organisation and then help you turn that data into intelligence, which you deploy in your business to help you stay competitive.
4.4 – Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Staying with AI, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is exceptional at taking care of repetitive tasks, giving you time back to do the things humans do best, such as strategy and customer engagement. Furthermore, AI can also reduce everyday human error, improving the efficiency of your business.
AI can also help your business become more agile. Identifying trends, digging into data to spot patterns you may have missed, and using predictive analysis to model the results of your decisions. However, you need to ensure your business is well set up to profit from the benefits of Gen AI, now and in the future. That requires a streamlined IT operation.
5 – 5 Steps to Streamline IT Operations in 2024
We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Now let’s look at five practical steps and strategies to help you achieve streamlined IT operations and save you and your team’s precious time whilst boosting productivity.
5.1 – Assess Your Current IT Infrastructure and Processes
The first step in your IT optimisation process should be to audit what hardware and software you currently have in your organisation, then identify:
- What’s essential
- What isn’t being used and needs to go
- What performs tasks that could be done better with a different tool
A good rule of thumb is to look at your overarching company goals and objectives. Work out your priority tasks, and then build a streamlined tech stack that aligns with them.
5.2 – Implement Modern Tools and Technologies
The tech world moves fast, and keeping track of what’s available is hard. Whatever tasks you need to complete in your organisation, there’s probably an app for it.
A great way to streamline your tech stack is to find a solution that covers multiple bases. For example, if your sales team uses different programs for business intelligence, outreach and call recording, why not investigate a tool that takes care of all three?
5.3 – Foster Collaboration and Communication
Improving collaboration and communication between your IT teams and other departments can make the process of streamlining operations much smoother.
For example, get together with the heads of other departments to gather feedback on how they believe IT operations could be improved:
- What tools create more work than they eliminate?
- If you could solve one problem for them, what would it be?
- How could tech make their (and their team’s) lives easier?
- Do some types of tasks take a disproportionate amount of time?
These answers will provide a good steer on how to proceed with the streamlining.
5.4 – Prioritise Cybersecurity Measures
According to government statistics, 59% of medium-sized UK businesses experienced a cyber-attack or data breach in 2022 and early 2023 *****.
Protecting sensitive business and customer data is a must in today’s world. A data breach can damage your company’s reputation and leave you liable to heavy fines.
A recent Forbes article recommends a ‘Cyber Resilience’ approach, where you go beyond anticipating and destroying cyber-attacks, focusing also on how to recover your business should an attack happen. For example, if your teams couldn’t access your central tech system, could they work without it? This ties in with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cyber security framework, considered the gold standard guide for formulating a cyber strategy. It consists of five pillars – Prepare, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover.
Measures you can take include:
- Ensure all your software is up-to-date with the latest security patches
- Educate your employees on how to avoid falling for email and internet scams
- Invest in threat intelligence software that warns you of possible attacks before they happen
- Beef up your network access control to prevent cyber-attackers infiltrating your IT system
- Take a certification such as the National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus
5.5 – Continuously Monitor and Optimise
Streamlining your IT operations is not a one-off job; it’s an ongoing process. Technology evolves quickly, while customer demands constantly create new demands for your business.
Take a quantitative and qualitative approach to monitoring the success of your streamlining, analysing adoption and usage data from your new tools, as well as talking to users to get their first-hand opinions.
When it’s time to iterate, don’t delay. Your tech is your competitive edge – and you need to maintain it.
Streamlining your IT operations can deliver massive benefits to your business and its processes. But as you can see, without the right support it could be a long and time-consuming process.
That’s where a managed service provider (or MSP) can help you. Partnering with an MSP brings specialist expertise into the streamlining process, delivering;
- Cost savings
- Peace of mind
However, selecting the right MSP for long-term success is essential – one with the experience, reputation, service offerings and pricing to suit your business needs. Then, you can reap the rewards.
To find out more about the managed services available through Doherty Associates, visit our Services page.