In Paul Simoneau’s article 12 Challenges Facing IT Professionals, Simoneau identifies the areas in which the IT industry will face its largest challenges going into the future. These challenges range from issues with BYOD and BYOA to energy efficiency to the exit of Boomers from the workplace. Of these challenges, creating value can be the most difficult to incorporate in a plan for the future of your IT consulting firm.
What Does Creating Value Look Like?
As service provider, your main goal is to provide and continually improve the IT services for your clients. That’s the bottom line. The more time you spend providing essential services to your clients, the more valuable you are.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to eliminate non-essential tasks from your work day. There are many ways to eliminate tasks from your day but the big question is what can you eliminate? What are your non-essential tasks? How can you streamline your operations while still providing a valuable service to your customers and clients?
These questions are difficult to broach as the services provided by IT consultants vary. However, there are tasks that every IT professional has to deal with that can be streamlined. Below are some starting points for you to start assessing what should stay and what should go.
Nobody likes paperwork. It is cumbersome, time consuming and takes time away from servicing your customers. Fortunately, there’s many different ways to go digital. Going the digital route saves time, but more importantly, saves money. Which is always a good thing.
While it would be nice to live in a world completely devoid of paperwork, the reality remains that sometimes it is necessary. When you have to do paperwork, make sure you know how to handle it efficiently. In short have a system and stick to it.
One popular approach to dealing with paperwork is called TRAF. This system come from Stephanie Winston, author of The Organized Executive, who suggests there are only four and a half things you can do with a piece of paper:
- Toss it
- Refer it
- Act on it personally
- File it
Reading it being the half of something you can do with a piece of paper. This system requires you to divide your paperwork into these categories and take action depending on the category in which the paperwork falls. Adopting a system like this not only streamlines your influx of paperwork but it keeps you organized. And organization is half the battle.
No matter what industry you’re in e-mail can be a bear to handle. Everyone in the professional world has had the experience of stepping away from their e-mail for a short time, only to return to 20 some emails. And now, instead of doing the work you need to, you spend the rest of the day responding to messages.
There are many different apps that help streamline your e-mail. The important thing is to get what works for you. Also, just like paperwork, you won’t ever be able to completely eliminate e-mail from your professional life. So, just like paperwork, you need a system and you need to stick to it.
And just like paperwork, there are systems people use to streamline the process. One of these processes is called the four D’s:
- Delete it
- Do it now
- Delegate it
- Defer it
This system is very similar to TRAF. It requires sorting your inbox into four categories and taking action, or inaction, depending on the e-mail. Both of these systems are simple. They keep you organized as well as keep your administrative tasks to a minimum.
Much like email, if you’re not careful, you can spend the entire day on the phone dealing with client problems. Fortunately, unlike paperwork and email, this problem is more readily outsourced.
Many companies offer outsourced receptionist duties, answering the phones and routing calls where they need to go. And, many times, you only pay these companies when they answer calls for you. So in many cases this is a much cheaper route than a full-time receptionist.
If outsourcing phone duties isn’t an option, then at least know how to handle calls quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately there aren’t any snazzy acronyms for streamlining your incoming phone calls. But you should keep in mind that every call is not a unique occurrence. You should have a plan in place for the top five reasons people call you.
If you advertise a free consultation, know how to give one. If customers call with the same couple of problems, know how to fix them. If someone calls asking for more information, know your selling points. Having a plan not only makes it sound like you know what you are doing but it saves you time.
Starting in these areas provides a starting block for you to re-examine and streamline your IT services. And generally, what it all boils down to is decreasing your admin responsibilities and increasing your time as a service provider.
The less time you spend doing paperwork, responding to email and on the phone with clients the more time you spend solving IT problems. And the more time you spend solving problems the more valuable you are.