There will always be distractions within Information Technology. Learning how to bring the many daily decisions into harmony with one another is a core objective for anyone focused on succeeding within the IT Services and Support space.
It is not enough to be busy... the question is, what are we busy about?
~ Henry David Thoreau
The Full Scoop
We've all been there. It is Sunday night, you should be spending time on the important things in your life, the ones you know will really matter 20 years from now; but instead, an urgent call comes in from a colleague. You feel obligated and perhaps a little guilty ignoring them, so you take the call. You quickly realize it really wasn't that important and could have waited until the morning; you feel somewhat irritated and conflicted, all at once.
One real challenge we face is in determining what is and is not urgent. Besides, who is the definitive Oracle that decides whether something is or is not urgent? I've received calls at 4 am to discuss system issues that I really did not feel were that urgent, but the person on the other side of the line sure felt it was; so who really decides what is or is not urgent in our personal and professional lives? Well, William Ernest Henley once penned a bit of golden advice,
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Now I know what you're thinking, folks - this is getting pretty deep for a discussion on managing emergencies and escalations within the IT Services space; but the answer is, we as individuals and companies decide what is and what is not urgent. The Eisenhower Matrix pictured above, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, has helped us in discussions with our technical teams when these questions arise.
Only you can decide what is urgent, and only you can decide what is important. It has been said, that we teach people how we should be treated. Have you decided as a team what is important, what is urgent and the how to balance the dependencies between the two? Is your team onboard? We work regularly with our help desk and project management staff to ensure we are aligned on what requires priority attention and what does not. It is not a one time effort, it is a continuous effort.
It is urgent that we quickly address client network outages. Our goal as an IT Provider is to provide Legendary Support and Service to our clients, and it is going to be hard for them to feel our service is Legendary if their network is down. Is it urgent that we revisit a conversation on transitioning a client to Microsoft 365, or setting up a Disaster Recovery plan? Probably not immediately urgent, but it can become urgent if we do not manage the project request properly.
Managing expectations requires frequent and effective communication. By effective we mean, we are both in alignment with what has been discussed and the subsequent action points and deadlines. We have learned that sometimes an employee or vendor does not prioritize a request we have, because we did not effectively communicate why it was important. Client communication can fall apart, when the needs of business users are not properly communicated to IT staff; a problem that can be remedied by regular communication with a dedicated relationship or account manager.
If you want your IT Operations to run smoothly, seek to minimize the number of urgent issues that are occurring. You should not have a lot of them, they should be the exception. Having a lot of urgent technical issues is a sign of an unhealthy IT System.
Technology can help to limit distractions, but it can also inadvertently become an enormous distraction. Work with your IT Service provider to identify areas within your business where technology is taking away from your core mission. They can only fix what they know is broken.
As you work to manage the many expectations that your clients have on you, look for ways to identify; what is and what is not urgent, what is and what is not important, and the balance between the two. Effectively communicate your matrix with your employee base, and we as your IT Services provider will continue doing the same; on a regular, committed and continuous basis.