4 Ways to Optimize Remote IT Leadership

4 Ways to Optimize Remote IT Leadership

If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of agility and resiliency. The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way businesses across almost every industry operate. Perhaps one of the most impactful changes was the shift to remote working – something that was accelerated far more rapidly than many organizations had ever anticipated. This was especially the case with IT, the department tasked with the burden of keeping the lights on, despite the disruptive circumstances.

Now, as we begin to settle into the so-called “new normal,” it’s becoming increasingly clear that the virtual workforce is here to stay. For those leaders facing the challenge of managing remote IT teams, here are a few helpful tips to keep everyone on track.

Prioritize technology.

First things first. If you want to set your dispersed IT team up for success, make sure to arm them with all the technology that they need. We’re not just talking about physical equipment, either. Beyond laptops, modems and headsets, invest in tools and platforms that will make it as efficient as possible for them to effectively perform their duties.

Intelligent automation, for example, can take much of the grunt work off their plates, freeing them up to focus on mission-critical tasks while simultaneously ensuring that everything that needs to get done gets done. This can also be a powerful tool for teams that are struggling with limited human resources, for whatever reason. IT automation can be that extra set of hands when staff is tight.

Stay connected.

When working from home as opposed to part of a physically present team, it’s easy to become distant and begin to feel isolated. Add to this the stress and anxiety many people are experiencing due to the current health crisis, and you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster on your hands.

It’s not enough to simply make yourself available to your remote employees. You should take things a step further by proactively making an effort to stay in communication with each team member. This can be done via regular group meetings, one-on-ones or even virtual social hours. We’ve got the technology today to stay hyper-connected. Be sure to use it to your team’s advantage.

Collaborate regularly.

At some point, online team meetings will inevitably become cumbersome and won’t always be the most efficient use of everyone’s time. To prevent fatigue and keep your team engaged, leverage online collaboration technologies, such as instant messaging, document sharing platforms, like Google Drive, and virtual workspaces, such as Slack or Yammer.

Being able to connect and work alongside colleagues in real-time, regardless of physical location, can help keep productivity high. It can also work wonders for morale. According to a survey by Telus, when asked what they missed most about working in an office setting, many respondents cited small talk and co-worker interaction at the top of their list. Providing this on a virtual level is the next best thing.

Be disciplined (and lead by example).

Working from home can be a very different dynamic from working in the office. IT leaders (and leaders in any field, frankly) can benefit from treating their virtual roles the same as their in-person ones. In other words, don’t let your schedule become lax, or be tempted to work from your couch.

Instead, approach each day just as you would if you were heading in to the office. Wake up at a decent time. Get ready. Start work at the normal time. Staying in a routine – and encouraging your team to do the same – can have a tremendous impact on productivity.

Likewise, designating an area of your home that will be dedicated to working only can also be effective in helping you stay focused and prevent distractions that are inevitable when working from home. It can also help in establishing and maintaining better work-life balance.

Transitioning from on-site management to a virtual workforce has been incredibly challenging – especially for business leaders who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the lack of face-time with employees. Following the above guidelines should make things much easier to deal with, both for managers as well as remote employees.

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6 Common Challenges of Intelligent Automation Adoption

6 Common Challenges of Intelligent Automation Adoption

As with all disruptive technologies, intelligent automation has the potential to bring about tremendous transformation, both in how organizations operate, as well as how the human workforce carries out various day-to-day business activities. Because of its massive and relatively rapid impact, however, there can also be a number of potential issues that can arise along the way, slowing down or even stalling progress.

Whether you are just starting out on your intelligent automation journey or you’re already in the thick of things, here are a few of the most common challenges that you should try to sidestep.

Lack of Definitive Strategy

Adopting new technology is no small feat. Organizations often get themselves into hot water when they try to accelerate the process of implementation without taking the time to lay the framework first. Before proceeding with an intelligent automation initiative, it’s essential that you first assess the current state of your business so you can accurately identify primary areas of focus.

It’s also important to decide on the scale and scope of automation (i.e. small pilot projects vs. organization-wide adoption). Having a definitive plan in place will help you measure progress and stay on track.

Unrealistic ROI

Another important point to make when adopting intelligent automation is that initial ROI projections are really just educated guesses. Understanding this helps to avoid setting unrealistic expectations and dealing with the aftermath when things don’t pan out quite as hoped.

This is one of the major reasons we strongly recommend starting with smaller projects – the lower hanging fruit, so to speak, as this enables you to more quickly achieve quantifiable ROI that can then be used to make more accurate estimates.

Staffing Issues

It’s no secret that the IT field has been battling an ever-widening skills gap for many years now. Rapid advancements in technology, including intelligent automation, have made a lack of talent even more of a glaring problem for organizations around the globe. Skilled IT professionals are hard to come by, and even harder to retain.

To address this, forward-thinking enterprise leaders should focus their efforts inward, looking to existing staff to upskill and reskill. There are plenty of low-cost or even free resources available to bring employees up to speed on intelligent automation, including our own Automation Academy.

Improper Use Case Selection

Determining which process or workflow to focus on as your first use case can certainly be a challenge. And, if you choose the wrong one, you could easily end up behind the eight ball with nothing to show for it as a result. Again, our strong recommendation is to start small and focus on tasks and processes that will yield the highest return the fastest. Once you’ve achieved success there, you can begin to scale upward and outward.

Vendor/Platform Choice

One area where many well-intentioned business leaders get tripped up is in choosing the vendor and/or intelligent automation platform for their needs. It can be incredibly easy to get caught up in a product or service that touts all the “bells and whistles,” but at the end of the day, if you don’t need all of those extras, it’s not really worth it.

The key to success here is to focus on ease of use and low-code/no-code solutions – especially if your long-term goal is to disseminate intelligent automation across the entire enterprise. You want a tool that can get you up and running quickly, doesn’t have a steep learning curve, is agile enough to grow and adapt along with your changing needs and doesn’t require an engineering degree to manage.

Poor Change Management

Just because the management team is gung ho about adopting automation doesn’t mean everyone will be equally as receptive. In fact, given the uncertainty and many misconceptions surrounding intelligent automation as a threat to human jobs, fear and resistance to change are almost to be expected.

To avoid this and gain as much buy-in and positive momentum as possible right out of the gate, invest in open, honest and ongoing communication. Educate your employees on the many ways that the purpse of automation isn’t to replace them, but rather to make their lives easier. Here are a few more tips for quelling end-user anxiety.  

Without question, intelligent automation can be the catalyst for positive change in helping organizations achieve the three key elements of digital transformation: agility, responsiveness and cost-savings. The six tips above should help you avoid many of the common but unnecessary bumps along the road and set your organization up for a much smoother transition.

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Overcoming IT Automation Anxiety

Overcoming IT Automation Anxiety

The concept of automation has long struck fear into the hearts and minds of hard working IT professionals. Bring on the robots…and while you’re at it, hand over our jobs. Thankfully, the reality of IT automation isn’t nearly this grim. Will it impact the day to day job duties of some? Inevitably, yes. But if deployed properly, IT automation should net a positive return, not just for the organization implementing it, but for the workers in the trenches as well.

That being said, if automation is on your list of priorities for the coming year, it’s wise to anticipate some of the fear and anxiety your employees may experience. Getting in front of the problem will ensure a much smoother, more successful rollout. If you are, indeed, planning to leverage IT automation as a tool to complement and augment your human workforce, here are a few ways you can quell their worries.

Educate the masses.

One of the biggest drivers of fear is uncertainty. If your team has no idea what IT automation is and, more importantly, how it can actually improve their lives, there is a greater chance of resistance to change. By educating them on what IT automation is all about, what it’s capable of and how you plan to use it, you’ll ease some of that tension and remove much of the doubt that your employees may be struggling with.

Bring people into the process.

Don’t unilaterally adopt IT automation and then explain it to your end-users. Taking this kind of approach can breed mistrust. Instead, bring employees and other stakeholders into the automation planning process early and keep them involved. Invite feedback and suggestions – especially from the workers who will be most closely impacted. They know better than anyone what tasks and processes would be ripe for automation. Moreover, being involved and engaged will eliminate any anxiety that may be lingering.

Don’t just tell. Show.

It’s one thing to verbally tout the advantages of IT automation to the masses, but it’s immensely more compelling when you actually show people how it will benefit them. In addition to demonstrating the specific ways artificial intelligence can improve their jobs, you should also identify avenues for exciting new opportunities. In other words, show front line employees that when they automate monotonous tasks, not only do they save time, but they are freed up to reskill, upskill and ultimately progress in their careers.

Identify IT automation evangelists.

Long-term success with IT automation requires more than just calming anxieties. It depends on proactively winning over the hearts and minds of users. This improves the likelihood of adoption and accelerates scale. Wherever possible, enlist the help of employees who are personally being impacted by automation. Work alongside them, record their journey and let them tell their story. Making the connection on a human level is the key to getting widespread buy-in and support.

Give your IT automation a name.

The thought of robots working behind the scenes can be nerve-wracking. What if, instead, it was simply a colleague named Mark? It may sound rather silly, but naming your IT automation tool can humanize it, making it less intimidating. The reality is, the successful workplace of the future will be one in which people and machines work side-by-side. Why not get a jump on this desired collaboration? Better yet, why not involve the entire team in the naming process?

At the end of the day, while change may be frightening, it is something that is pivotal to growth. By implementing the five strategies above to show your employees that IT automation isn’t something to be feared, you’ll proactively address their uneasiness and make the experience a much more positive one for everyone involved.

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5 Dangers That Could Sideline Your IT Automation Project

5 Dangers That Could Sideline Your IT Automation Project

Mistakes are a part of life. In cases where they are unavoidable, we try to learn from them. Ideally, however, we sidestep them altogether by learning from the mistakes made by others. Having been a player in the IT industry for many years, we’ve encountered our fair share of bad practices, and we know the steps to take to avoid going down the same path. If you’re about to embark on an IT automation project, here are five risks to watch for.

Putting automation before optimization.

Automating a process that is broken or inefficient to begin with is a fool’s errand. In fact, you could end up with an even greater rate of failure than you had prior to automating. This is why it’s imperative to ensure that every workflow you are automating is fully optimized before moving forward. Keep in mind, this may involve removing certain steps or systems that are irrelevant or unnecessary.  

Automating everything.

While IT automation can certainly be used on a widespread basis, there’s no need to force a square peg into a round hole. At the end of the day, some processes and tasks are simply better handled manually (at least for the time being). When determining how to best deploy automation, be honest and realistic in your approach. Focus your efforts on areas of substantial value and don’t try to force things.

Not getting input from end users.

Another common mistake made by well-intentioned business leaders is developing an IT automation strategy without getting adequate input from those who will most closely be effected. Think about it. Who better to guide the process than the people who are in the trenches, day in and day out, handling all of the manual workflows. Not only does getting their input help to create a more effective strategy, but you’ll also gain more buy-in while you’re at it.

Poor or lack of communication.

The IT team may be responsible for deploying and managing the automation project, but successful organization-wide deployment requires communication and collaboration across multiple departments. In the absence of this, you risk ending up with silos, which are often counterproductive. All parties involved should be working together and continuously communicating to ensure that the benefits of automation are widespread and all-inclusive.

Becoming complacent.

Once IT automation has been deployed and seems to be working well, it can be tempting to just leave things status quo. In reality, business and IT operations are constantly changing and evolving, regardless of industry or sector. Failing to adapt your automation strategy to address these changes can be detrimental to your organization. To avoid this, you should periodically audit what’s being automated and how to identify areas of problem and potential improvement.

These are five of the most common mistakes that can derail an IT automation project. Avoiding them can help ensure a much smoother ride for you and your team.

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When it Comes to AI, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

When it Comes to AI, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Adopting artificial intelligence for your organization can be an intriguing prospect – especially when you start forecasting all the many benefits doing so will afford. But as exciting as it may be, it’s imperative that you not get ahead of yourself. By moving too quickly – that is, before you fully understand the implications of AI – you could easily end up with a costly mess on your hands. Instead, you should focus on gaining knowledge of and becoming familiar with AI. This will ultimately enable you to develop and implement a thoughtful strategy that will deliver consistent, sustainable value.

So, where is a good place to begin? Which projects should you apply your attention, efforts and investments toward? This initial phase will take some time and careful planning, but the payoff for being prudent will be well worth it in the long run. Start by brainstorming a handful of projects. Then, for each of these projects, spend some time doing your due diligence, both business and technical, to map out the potential impacts. This practice will help you identify the most lucrative areas to which you should commit your resources.

If you are feeling pressure from the “powers that be” to generate proof of concept more quickly than taking the above approach will allow, specify a few workflows and projects into which AI and intelligent automation can be rapidly integrated. Specifically, dedicate a portion of your resources to smaller initiatives that have the potential to make a substantial impact. By automating this “low hanging fruit,” you can generate some quick wins and provide quantifiable evidence of value. Once you’ve satiated the interested stakeholders, you can then turn your attention back to the larger-scale, longer-term projects.

The goal with AI should be to develop and establish a solid foundation upon which to build and grow over time. By starting smaller and working steadily toward the bigger picture down the road, you’ll lay the groundwork and gain the momentum you need to harness the power artificial intelligence and use it to propel your organization ahead of the competition.

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Tired of Turnover? 7 Tips to Keep Your IT Team Intact

7 Tips to Keep Your IT Team Intact

In the IT realm, attracting top talent is only half the battle. It’s keeping them that’s the real challenge. And with an average employee tenure of only about 3 years, it’s a serious concern for many organizations across the globe. Add in the complex, fast paced and highly stressful role of IT and you’ve got quite the conundrum. So, what’s the secret? How can you keep your talented employees on for the long haul? Here are 7 tips to point you in the right direction.

Challenge them. The last thing you want is for your IT personnel to become bored and stagnant in their current positions. Avoid this by investing in ongoing training, setting up mentoring programs, and offering opportunities to master new skills and technologies. The more you keep your IT employees engaged and involved, the less likely they’ll be to look elsewhere.

Cross-train and rotate. Being stuck on the same project day in and day out can lead to fatigue and frustration. Consider rotating employees onto various IT projects so that they don’t feel trapped. This will provide exposure to and the opportunity to learn about new skills and also open up the door to be able to approach long-term projects from differing perspectives – all of which can benefit your organization.

Arm them with what they need. These days, keeping up with the onslaught of incoming IT requests is nothing short of exhausting. Don’t leave your tech team out to dry by making them handle this monumental task manually. Arm them with the technology they need to do their jobs better, faster, more efficiently and more effectively, such as intelligent process automation.

Allow and encourage them to vent. Without question, the job of keeping an entire organization safe from the potentially devastating financial and reputational damage a successful cyber breach can have is incredibly stressful. Additionally, IT personal often feel tense due to the amount of classified and confidential information they are entrusted with. Provide an opportunity and a secure avenue for these employees to vent their feelings.

Mandate time off. Everybody needs a little down time, but given the fast-paced and highly stressful field of IT, these employees could probably use some time off more than anyone else in your organization. This is where technology can help. By automating a good portion of tasks and leveraging the cloud to embrace more flexibility, your team can take the much needed time off they deserve without the company feeling any negative impact.

Use realistic metrics to measure success. One of the biggest reasons IT professionals find themselves dissatisfied at work is because they feel they aren’t being adequately recognized. This is often due to a lack of clear and specific metrics for success. Management should set realistic expectations, communicate openly and routinely measure progress. Good work should be rewarded and areas of potential improvement identified and addressed in a positive, productive way.

Empower them. If your employees feel that their only option is to come in every day and put in 10-12 hours of labor, they’re not going to develop any kind of connection or loyalty to your organization. On the other hand, if they know that the work they do plays a direct role in the “big picture” and that their achievements are tied into the company’s overall success, they’ll be much more plugged in, which means they’re more likely to stay on for the long haul. Empower them by inviting ideas and encouraging autonomy.

Are you doing enough to keep your IT team satisfied, engaged and plugged in? If not, you could be facing higher turnover, which can negatively impact your company’s bottom line and also leave you more vulnerable. By implementing the above tips, you’ll create a more positive work environment that fosters longevity. Happy employees will work harder to ensure that your organization remains strong, secure and successful.

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