Two of the biggest drains on a company’s IT resources are rework and unproductive labor. While you might be tempted to lump them both together under “unproductive labor,” “rework” really needs to be separate. Unproductive labor may not be related to competence. Rework means your technician did something wrong and then they (or someone else) had to go do the work again. This is very often related to training, competence, and experience. You absolutely have to minimize this.
Here are six things you can do to minimize these categories.
This starts with assigning a priority to every single ticket or task. Everything in your company needs to be prioritized. Low priority tasks might be easy or even fun, but you have to be disciplined to work based on priority level.
A lot of the low priority items fall into the category of “urgent but Not important.” Clearing up high priority tasks often clears up some smaller tasks that were related to the issue. It also guarantees that your technicians are always working on the most important things.
The most productive work is planned. It's okay to schedule work two or three days out—in fact, for some projects it might even be as much as two or three weeks out. If you can plan to tackle specific jobs on specific days, you can organize the work and prepare for it.
Reactive work is always less effective. You jump off one task and onto another. That action automatically reduces the effectiveness of your work on the task you are abandoning. And because your work on the new problem is completely unplanned, you are less productive on that as well.
Scheduling loosely gives you flexibility.
For any given hardware or software, you will have a specific level of knowledge. Ideally, your team will include a variety of people with a range of different skills. If there are any products that are critical to your company’s success, you should ensure you have people who specialize in that product.
It is pretty obvious that someone with specialized knowledge will fix things faster. This reduces time spent floundering around trying to figure things out. Of course, once you solve a problem, you should take time to put notes in the ticket so you can replicate your success.
You should have a policy in your company that no one is allowed to work on a problem for very long without making progress. You might decide the limit is 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour (you might even have lower limits for newer techs). But at some point, they MUST call for help. They might call their manager, another technician, a friend at another company (if appropriate), the vendor's tech support line or anyone else who can help.
In addition to a "fresh pair of eyes," calling for help immediately limits the amount of unproductive time that can accumulate in your company.
There are many causes to rework. Making it a department-wide priority to minimize rework will have a dramatic effect. First, it makes everyone aware of the need. So team members can enforce the goal of minimizing rework and help each other out. Second, it will make it easier for technicians to ask for help.
Third, making this a priority will lead to other actions that are good for your company overall.
Without knowing anything about the specific rework, you can guarantee that it is related to either poor planning or lack of training/experience. So you need to make sure you have adequate training programs. These can be internal. In fact, sometimes internal training is the best because you can go at the student's pace, and you know the training is on YOUR way of doing something.
Planning is obviously good for any project. It is particularly good for avoiding rework. If you slow down and plan your work, you are much more likely to proceed from start to finish without retracing your steps.
Documentation includes procedures and planning. It includes putting all of your notes and hours in the PSA. It includes using checklists—and only checking each box after the task is complete.
When you know exactly what you have done and not done, troubleshooting becomes a lot easier. Ideally, you should be able to read through the notes on a ticket and come up to speed very quickly on the problem and what has been tried so far.
If someone in the company has a similar problem in the future, you'll have the answer at your fingertips.
As we said at the start, rework and unproductive labor are the two biggest drains on your IT resources. Following these six simple steps will help you reduce their impact—and ultimately make your team more efficient.
Ashley Bono is senior product marketing manager at SolarWinds MSP
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