mrc's Cup of Joe Blog

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How to get the most out of a small IT staff

ProductivityAccording to our 2012 survey of IT professionals and IT management, small IT staffs are one of the biggest barriers to success. In the survey, we asked two questions:
1. What are the biggest problems or challenges that your company deals with?
2. What keeps you from addressing those challenges?

Can you guess some of the most common answers to question #2? Most of them sounded something like this:
– We don’t have enough staff
– No time
– IT staff is too small

While IT department size is a perpetual problem for many companies, it seems to be getting worse. More and more companies point to limited staff as the reason they can’t accomplish what they want to accomplish.

So, if your company is dealing with this problem, what’s the answer? How can you get the most out of your small IT department? To help you out, we posed this question to some people who deal with small IT staffs on a regular basis. I’ve included their advice below, as well as some of my own. I hope you find it useful.

4 common productivity bottlenecks (and how you can fix them)

ProductivityHow would you like to walk into your boss’s office today and say, “I know a way to improve productivity by 50%.” Of course you would! Who wouldn’t?

Of course, that only works if you actually know a way to improve productivity by 50%. Sound impossible? It’s not that hard…you just have to know where to look.

So, where do you look? For starters, let me share one prime area that’s ripe for productivity improvements: In many businesses, productivity bottlenecks revolve around data. Even in the year 2013, we’re just not that efficient with our data. Every day, businesses waste time entering, collecting, sorting, filtering, combining, and manipulating data. The fact is, many businesses could vastly improve productivity if they only addressed some of these data inefficiencies.

If you want to dramatically improve productivity in your company, here’s a good place to start: I’ve listed 4 of the most common productivity bottlenecks caused by data. How many of these do you see in your company?

4 simple ways to improve developer productivity

ProductivityLet me tell you a quick story about two similar development projects at two very different companies. Both companies were building extranets/portals–applications that let their customers log in, view their data, and place orders online.

Both had similar requirements. Both were nearly equally complex. The big differences between the two projects: One required 3 years, while the other required 3 months.

What caused this huge disparity?

As it turns out, the first company made a number of mistakes that killed their developer’s productivity. What were they? I’ve pulled out the most important lessons to learn from this story, and listed them below. With that in mind, if you want to maximize your developer’s productivity…

Want to cut your development time in half?

ProductivityHere are a few questions for you as we head into 2013: Do you want to cut your development time in half? Do you want to automate mobile development? Do you want a way to quickly build new features into your current software?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, here’s a video you’ll want to watch. This short, 2-minute video explains how m-Power answers each one of the questions above, and even walks you through a sample build process. I hope you enjoy it.

3-Language, cross-platform mobile apps in 3 days

ProductivityMobile apps have dominated the news for the last year, with seemingly every development software vendor adding mobile capabilities. With so many vendors offering mobile apps, how can any company know which option to choose?

The organizers of the annual IBM International Power event in the UK decided to help companies with this problem. They recently organized a “Data Challenge”, giving mobile app software vendors a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

The rules were simple: Participating vendors had one week to build a mobile application over the same sample database. At the end of the time, each vendor presented their mobile app to the event’s attendees.

Getty Images Demands Big Money from Website Owners

Save Money** This guest post was written by Ryan Healy. Learn more about Ryan in the author bio at the end of this post. **

Have you ever used a picture on your web applications or website? And if so, have you taken the time to verify that you have the proper copyright to use that image?

If not, you could soon be the unhappy recipient of a settlement demand letter (AKA “extortion letter”) that asks for a large sum of money to pay for “damages.”

In recent years, companies like Getty Images, iStockphoto, Masterfile, Corbis, Jupiter Images, and others have become aggressive in pursuing people who infringe on an image’s copyright.

It doesn’t matter whether you use an unlicensed image accidentally or intentionally — the consequences are the same.

5 common problems that kill IT productivity

ProductivityDo you ever come to the end of a busy day and feel like you didn’t actually accomplish anything? Although you worked hard all day, you feel like you have nothing to show from all of that work?

Chances are, you got caught handling minor, yet essential tasks that kept you from tackling more important projects. Maybe you spent the day supporting untrained users, running end user reports, or trying to fix yet another problem with your company’s old, patched-up legacy software.

Tasks like these have a few things in common: They are necessary, yet time-consuming tasks that could (and should) be avoided. More importantly, they keep you from working on essential projects that could ultimately improve the company’s bottom line.

In other words: They keep you busy, but not productive.

How can you avoid these “productivity killers” and instead focus on essential tasks during the work day? First, you must identify which tasks fall within this category, and then you must figure out how to avoid them. So, what are some of the most common productivity killers? While it varies across companies, here’s a list of 5 productivity killers that commonly plague IT departments:

What’s really causing Shadow IT?

ProductivityIt’s funny, really. We hear all of this talk about “Shadow IT”, like it’s some big new problem. The fact is, “Shadow IT” is not a new trend. It’s an old problem with a new name.

“Shadow IT” is nothing more than employees finding ways around the IT department. This usually happens when the IT department isn’t meeting the user’s needs in a timely manner.

In the past, it involved spreadsheets. If the IT department couldn’t meet the users needs fast enough, they turned to spreadsheets. Users found all sorts of uses for spreadsheets, creating forms, reports, analytical applications, and more. The fact is, spreadsheets were the original “Shadow IT”.

But, if “Shadow IT” isn’t new, why is it such a big problem all of a sudden? The way I see it, there are two reasons:

The small IT staff that’s making a big difference

ProductivityDoes IT matter anymore? I’ve seen that question cropping up around the web in the last month or so. Some people believe that the rise of SaaS options eliminates the need for a traditional IT department. They view IT departments as an added expense that doesn’t help the bottom line.

If you work in IT, that question must infuriate you. IT departments put in countless hours keeping the business up and running. The idea that a business would be just fine without an IT department is ridiculous.

Now, I could spend all day explaining why that question is absurd, but instead, let’s ask a better question: If the business views your IT department as an added expense, what can you do to change that perception?

While the answer to that question varies by company, let’s look at a real-life example of an IT staff that’s making a big (positive) impact on their company. This small IT department recently came up with an inexpensive way to improve employee productivity using smartphones and mobile apps. To find out how, you can read the whole story over at IBM Systems Magazine.

Even small IT staffs can accomplish big things

ProductivityFill in the blank: “Our company needs to _____________, but our IT staff is too small.” Based on feedback I received from a tech conference we recently attended, this is one of the biggest problems facing IT departments these days. IT professionals know how to help their companies, they just lack the time and resources to do anything about it.

It’s a depressing thought–knowing how to help your company but realizing that you can’t. You feel stuck. But don’t worry…if you’re facing this problem, you’re not alone and you’re definitely not stuck. Here are two stories of small IT staffs that found ways to complete urgent projects despite their limited staff. I hope you find them useful:

1. This 2-person IT staff found a way to quickly modernize their green-screen interface and replace their order entry system without bringing in any outside help.

2. This 3-person IT staff built a brand new, custom extranet, and did it faster than it would’ve taken to deploy an off-the-shelf option.

See? Even small IT staffs can accomplish big things!