How to become a proactive IT department

This article is part of our IT Admin Mythbusters campaign. Discover the truth behind other common industry misconceptions in our roundup article 5 common IT myths & essential tips for IT pros.

It’s 5 p.m. and while most of your non-IT coworkers are preparing to log off for the day, you’re still stuck at your desk, trying to work your way through an endless stream of helpdesk tickets. Your stomach rumbles and you realize that you were so busy troubleshooting issues that you forgot to eat lunch — again. You also can’t remember when anyone in the team last took time off because there’s always something urgent that needs immediate attention, all the time.

This is what it could look like if companies took a reactive approach to IT, treating their teams as cost centers that require minimal investment and whose main role is to fix problems when they occur. What if there was a better alternative? What if IT could be proactive, valued, and supported instead of reactive, overworked, and underappreciated? We’ll take you through some useful tips on how to be a proactive IT department with extra notes to convince your boss of the benefits to businesses and their employees.

Proactive vs. reactive IT

What’s the difference between proactive and reactive IT? Reactive IT support primarily focuses on fixing problems when they happen, going by the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Proactive IT, on the other hand, looks at preventing problems before they occur. Proactive IT management is about taking preemptive action to minimize risk while finding ways to add value and contribute to broader organizational goals. If employees weren’t experiencing system failures constantly, they would get more done and need less support, leaving you with time to spend on making actual improvements to enhance user and customer experiences.  

7 tips for becoming a proactive IT department

Leading the transformation from reactive to more proactive management takes grit, gumption, and an unwavering belief in the cause. A steady supply of caffeine wouldn’t hurt either. To top it off, here’s a list containing some valuable tips and a few words of wisdom from fellow IT pros who have been through their share of trials and tribulations and lived to tell the tale.

1. Get management support

Winning over leadership executives and changing their perception of the role of IT is half the battle won. To earn their trust and support, start with small but strategic initiatives that demonstrate value and measurable success. The good news is that more companies are increasing their IT spending and investing in technology that ties in with business outcomes.

2. Identify your key focus areas

The scope of IT work is broad and complex, and trying to do everything all at once is not going to yield the results you want. Instead, focus on a few key areas that you have the expertise and capabilities to commit to. You can also narrow it down by identifying what other departments like sales or business development need to operate more effectively.

3. Develop a roadmap

Once you’ve locked down your focus areas, the next step is to map out your budget, execution plan, goals, and success metrics. This would help you stay organized as you manage day-to-day activities alongside larger projects. It’s especially crucial to track and measure success, which can be quantified by changes in uptime, revenue, productivity (in terms of dollar value), or employee sentiment.

4. Use tools to create greater efficiency and results

To be successful and sustainable, proactive IT support requires the right tools to streamline processes and maximize efficiency. Examples range from remote monitoring and management software to easy-to-use imaging solutions like SmartDeploy. With more organizations switching to remote or hybrid work, being able to centrally manage endpoints and support users from anywhere is essential.

5. Set up clear processes and documentation

Establish clear, intuitive processes and workflows that enable the team to operate in a logical and consistent manner. For repetitive tasks or those that are prone to human error, “script that s**t” is the advice from one Reddit user. Self-help documentation around common user issues can help to reduce the dependency on IT, freeing up the team to work on more critical projects.

6. Communicate

Communication plays a vital role in building relationships, getting buy-in for new initiatives, and conveying the value and impact of IT to the organization. Rather than communicating only when something goes wrong, proactive IT management should include communication strategies to foster collaboration, strengthen engagement, and change the way IT support is conventionally perceived.

7. Stay on top of cybersecurity

Know your IT infrastructure and environment so that you can better anticipate potential issues, cybersecurity gaps, and vulnerabilities. Keep endpoints secure against cyberattacks by patching and updating software regularly, using quality antivirus software, and cultivating a strong security-minded culture within the organization.

What are the benefits of proactive IT?

For organizations and teams, taking a proactive approach to IT has many advantages. Besides greater cost efficiencies, it’s good for users, good for team morale, and good for business in the long run.

Cost savings

By taking measures to prevent issues, proactive IT management reduces the risks and hefty costs of security breaches and unplanned downtime. This can help to keep IT costs predictable, enabling companies to plan and utilize their budgets more strategically on technology and initiatives that have a greater impact.

Improved user productivity

Proactive IT support is about catching and resolving small issues before they turn into larger ones that cause more serious disruptions. Paired with backup and disaster recovery procedures and software tools to streamline break-fix resolution, it helps reduce user downtime and keeps them productive for longer.  

Improved security

When it comes to security threats, just like the flu, prevention is better than cure. Proactive IT support typically involves diligent security monitoring and regular efforts to keep endpoints secure, patched, and updated, ensuring that the entire digital ecosystem is well protected.

Better user relationships

Proactive IT management leads to less frustration, happier users, and better relationships all around.  That’s because well-managed systems run more smoothly, experience fewer issues, and are less likely to cause unexpected disruptions to users. Communicating tasks like scheduled downtime in advance also allows users to plan their work accordingly while IT admins do their thing.

Less burnout

IT admin roles are notorious for long hours and intense workloads. Constant firefighting and reactive IT management add to the stress, which often results in burnout and attrition. This could change if organizations invested more in supporting and empowering their IT teams with the resources they need to perform their job efficiently and thrive.

New business opportunities

Well-run and well-resourced IT departments are likely to have more bandwidth to explore new areas of work or initiatives that could turn into business opportunities down the road. Transforming IT from a reactive to a proactive function and equipping them to drive product and service innovation could also have a direct impact on business growth and profit.

If you’re looking to reclaim more hours in your workday, start by simplifying day-to-day IT support tasks so that more time and energy can be channeled into more high-impact work. You can use an endpoint management solution like SmartDeploy to reimage devices, streamline driver management, and push out software updates and patches to endpoints across your environment. And you can do this from anywhere, for users who are onsite or remote. Check out SmartDeploy’s weekly demo to learn how to do this and more — and be home in time for dinner.