How to avoid running your IT department like an understaffed ER

Imagine you limp into the crowded Emergency Room of your local hospital. You are suffering from (insert non-life threatening illness or injury here). The place looks like a zoo. The line just to speak to someone in reception is about a mile long, and it’s a little difficult to hear over the screaming child spurting blood in the corner.

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Five hours later someone hands you some pain meds and tells you to come back tomorrow. You haven’t even seen a real doctor yet.

Yours may not be a life and death situation — at least not today as far as you can tell — but does that mean your injury is any less serious? Is it too much to ask that someone assist you in a timely fashion?

This is what life is like on a daily basis for many IT departments.

Are you stretched so thin, that when a user issue arises it automatically gets flagged a lower priority, unless it is a true emergency?

How do you avoid running your department like that madhouse of an ER? How do you make sure your users feel served and appreciated by your busy department, while still maintaining a shred of sanity?

What do these non-emergent issues look like?

Similar to an unusable broken bone (because it’s pointing in the wrong direction), sometimes SAP transactions don’t work the way they should. And this can be very frustrating for the party on the malfunctioning end.

The solution could be as simple as a user training issue, or it could be more complex. It could be a genuine problem requiring diagnosis by an experienced SAP consultant—like wrong or incomplete data for instance. But even if it doesn’t seem urgent to you (because you are buried alive under seemingly more pressing cases), that doesn’t mean it won’t feel like an emergency situation for your user.

So how can you handle these issues more immediately?

If your budget permits, the obvious solution is to bring in some outside help. Ideally you would have an “on-call” doctor scheduled for those times when you anticipate the greatest number of issues might occur.

You may want to hire an SAP contractor on retainer basis who can provide the extra support your team requires as those ambulances keep rolling in, sirens wailing, one after another. Have this consultant fill in during evenings and peak business periods to provide improved support when you know you will need it most.

So how can you handle this problem internally?

Encourage users to help themselves

Think of the airline attendant’s instructions before a plane takes off: always put on your own Oxygen mask before helping someone else. The same principle applies here.

One idea is to conduct periodic training of key business users in each department. Teach these individuals the SAP equivalent of first aid in the hopes they can handle minor bumps and scrapes on their own. Refresh their SAP knowledge, and show them some tips and tricks that will help them do their jobs more accurately and efficiently.

You aren’t expecting them to perform brain surgery—that’s your job—but a bit of triage and some self-reliance can have a huge impact. Not only would this increase office morale, it might even win you some brownie points with management.

How do I do this without going broke?

Like most IT departments, your budget is limited. So how do you wisely allocate your resources and still handle these “minor issues” with the immediacy they deserve?

Perhaps this is an opportunity to groom a young, future leader. That would be a smart investment, wouldn’t it? You could hire a Junior Developer—someone entry level—and teach them to handle the simpler stuff. Think of this person like a medical resident. He’s not a brain surgeon yet, but this training will help prepare him for the bigger and tougher challenges ahead.

User issues don’t have to wait

There is no requirement in the IT Director Handbook that says you have to run your department like an understaffed Emergency Room. Hiring some outside help, providing internal training on common SAP issues, and promoting from within, are feasible solutions that will help keep your organization healthy and functioning. You do not have to send users home until tomorrow. You can treat and resolve their ailments today.

Next Step

If you’d like some help putting these steps into practice, give us a call (or fill the form below and send to us). We’re happy to meet and discuss your situation.