7 ways to improve time management with email signature software

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Managing your time can be very challenging in a busy IT department with requests and competing priorities coming at you from all angles. In this post we explore the importance of time management for every IT professional – particularly how automation helps to alleviate your time pressures in relation to email signature deployment and management. 

Why is IT so time poor? 

IT skills shortages are a global phenomenon which means IT departments are typically under-staffed – and this is a major problem within growing businesses. Exacerbating this is the universal trend toward greater technology adoption and digital transformation of business processes and hybrid working practices. This leads to heightened expectations from individual users and the organization at large, compounding time pressures even further. 

The result of these and related factors is that IT professionals are very time poor. 

Why is time management important for IT professionals? 

As with any finite resource, when time is scarce it must be spent very carefully. Time management is the mechanism for deciding how time should be planned and allocated for maximum benefit.  

Working without time management means there is no control over how time will be spent in advance. Instead of work being strategically planned in line with business objectives and a shared understanding of prioritization, it is carried out on a ‘best efforts’ basis according to what each individual believes is appropriate. This is a recipe for conflict and inefficiency. 

Good time management practices enable organizations to: 

  • Maximize return on human capital employed 

  • Set appropriate expectations with internal and external stakeholders 

  • Scale resources appropriately ahead of demand (e.g. hire more people to complete a project from the outset, rather than after it has become clear more people are needed) 

  • Remove uncertainty in communications and delivery 

  • Target and measure continuous improvements in productivity 

On a personal level, IT professionals benefit enormously from good time management practices in the following ways: 

  • Work shorter hours to achieve the same workload 

  • Increase quality of work and reputation among peers 

  • Enjoy a less stressful working environment 

  • Reduce ‘noise’ from distracting tasks 

  • Create space for addressing strategically valuable work 

  • Increase career opportunities through enhanced employability 

The main time management issues affecting IT professionals 

IT people aren’t unique in being subject to time pressures. However, there are a combination of factors that disproportionately affect them, owing to the very specific dynamics associated with their work. 

IT’s stressful combination of planned work and unplanned requests 

IT departments within organizations operate simultaneously at both ends of the strategic–tactical spectrum. At the tactical end, they are customer support centers servicing the needs of IT users as their ‘customers’. Just like an external-facing customer support department, the IT function has little idea how many enquiries it will receive in a given day or what they will be about.  

However, unlike customer-facing departments, the IT team must divide its available time with significantly more strategic considerations. These include service innovation, application development, data science, and the adoption of next generation IT solutions and architectures. 

In both cases – tactical and strategic – the impact of not fulfilling the required work is counterproductive. A user waiting for IT support is unproductive, but worse still is when they decide they have waited long enough, taking matters into their own hands and (disastrously) attempting to remedy the issue themselves. Likewise, a strategic project that does not progress in a timely fashion may be delivered late and over budget, which would be problematic enough before you consider the potential loss of market competitiveness or brand trust that the delay has also created. 

IT professionals are ultimately required to juggle all these priorities using the same finite bank of available time. 

IT’s real conflict between urgent and important tasks 

The workload saddled upon IT departments is significant, and at its heart is always a conflict between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ tasks. In reality, the urgency of day-to-day operations typically takes priority because IT users have needs and expectations that must be met in order to use technology to be effective in their roles. 

This is akin to a healthcare organization placing a higher priority on emergency patients than patients with chronic conditions. This makes sense when emergencies are genuinely life-threatening but is unsustainable if extended to every patient that attends the emergency room. Taking the analogy to its logical conclusion, it’s just a matter of time until all ‘important’ chronic patients steadily turn into ‘urgent’ ER cases. In the IT department, this same inevitable process will transfer a steady stream of ‘urgent’ tasks from the ‘important’ pile of tasks, simply by virtue of failing to prioritize strategically.  

In IT departments, there is the constant threat of noisy, expectant users ‘creating’ urgency. What’s left is a sense of never having the impetus to properly focus on less urgent priorities that are of greater overall strategic importance. 

The upshot for time management is helping IT professionals chart a course through the mixture of ‘important’ versus ‘urgent’ tasks and responsibilities.  

IT is more likely to take on responsibility than delegate it 

IT people are no more generous or forgiving than other workers. But because they operate under conditions that continually leave departments short-staffed and individuals lacking support, the need to take on extra workloads and responsibilities is neverending. 

This is crucial to understand because a commonly cited solution to time management is to be better at delegating to others. This is particularly difficult for IT people when there is no-one suitable to delegate to. 

IT’s learning burden and the weight of growing complexity 

IT is a technical discipline that requires practitioners to maintain and acquire the latest skills. It is therefore imperative that IT professionals are able to dedicate a proportion of their time to learning and development (L&D)

Sometimes this is very difficult to balance with day-to-day responsibilities. This can risk de-skilling IT professionals or having their static skillsets fail to keep pace with external market and technology change. 

This can happen when skills are already being stretched by the effect of short-staffing and a lack of suitable employee candidates to hire from. An IT professional who specializes in, for example, database administration might be required to cover duties in adjacent disciplines such as infrastructure management, cybersecurity, or desktop computing. Being asked to cover areas they are weaker in naturally makes them less efficient and effective at the required tasks.  

The whole issue is compounded when organizations commit to internal change without factoring in the L&D impact on the IT team. As technology becomes incrementally more powerful and IT environments more hybrid, everything becomes more complex to manage.  

How technology helps with time management at work 

There are lots of ways to address the time management challenge using technology. Here are five of the most common groups: 

Productivity apps 

Some of the earliest and most enduring business applications are productivity apps. Think of the word processor, for example. We’re still seeing plenty of innovation here as individuals seek to utilize apps that fit their particular work styles and squeeze every last ounce of productivity. These are all designed to either make tasks faster to accomplish or to optimize the process of managing time in your day. Examples include: 

  • Calendars 

  • Note taking 

  • To-do lists 

  • Whiteboarding 

  • Data visualization 

These are just as valid for IT pros as anyone else who seeks to optimize their time management. 

Time tracking systems 

Time management isn’t effective unless you're actually measuring time. Time tracking software is so simple and yet adoption rates can be low because they take some getting used to.  

As with any input recording system, the value comes from interpreting the output data and making improvements based on that. For example, seeing how long the same task takes on average and trying to improve on it. At its most basic level, tracking your time provides a baseline measurement for where you are on day one, helps ‘T-shirt size’ the work required for certain types of tasks, and gives deeper insights into work patterns.   

Time tracking is a useful tool for anyone charting their time management success hour by hour, let alone month by month. 

Unified communications and collaboration platforms 

Communication is the lifeblood of any organization, particularly among distributed teams of people following their own home-based, office-based or hybrid working preferences. Unified comms and collaboration (UCC) technology is essential for efficiently combining the many types of working together into one place – be that messages, interactions, meetings or contributing to shared documents – allowing people to multitask and multiteam.  

Yet again – this is great for every kind of worker, not just those in the IT department. 

Orchestration technology 

Now we’re getting into more advanced kinds of technology that help individuals and teams achieve optimum time management. 

‘Orchestration’ covers a wide spectrum of software platforms that promote maximum visibility and control over underlying processes and tasks. For example, a CRM (customer relationship management) platform allows literally any view of customer data and for actions concerning customer data to be activated immediately. 

Technology that delivers orchestration in this way is typically a centralized point for all relevant data, allowing for completeness and 360-degree oversight. And while data is brought together in one place, this doesn’t prevent administrators from controlling orchestration from anywhere via the cloud.  

Orchestration technology is a common feature of IT departments, with different software implementations supporting specific business functions.  

Automation technology 

Automation is simply the introduction of automatic, machine-driven capabilities into a normally manual process. Information technology has automated a great deal of previously manual processes to the extent that, to the modern observer, it’s hard to imagine how organizations could ever have operated without software, computing devices and the internet. The opportunity that remains is to push automation further into how humans work in order to make processes faster and more efficient, as well as more accurate and transparent. 

In the sphere of IT, technologists have brought significant automation to various business functions within typical organizations and across industry sectors. From accountancy to zoology, there isn’t an automation opportunity that hasn’t been identified and at least partially converted. 

What’s strange (but true) is that, despite these advances, IT professionals still consume such a large amount of their time carrying out manual, repetitive tasks – what Google refers to as ‘toil’. The hope is that, by better understanding how processes work, automation can be applied to remove or minimize human intervention. Some of the more advanced applications for automation draw on artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. 

Using email signature software to improve time management 

The administration of email signatures by IT personnel is a ripe opportunity to replace inefficient, repetitive tasks with a strategic software system. 

Email signatures are an important communications channel, one of the primary ‘owned media’ that organizations can control and exploit in order to: 

  • Deliver a consistent brand experience 

  • Drive engagement with content and other calls to action 

  • Promote targeted marketing campaigns and messages 

  • Optimize customer response 

  • Improve sales processes and efficiencies 

This is in addition to the fundamental purpose of email signatures, which is to provide accurate contact information about the individual sending the email and the organization they represent. Email signatures also carry important legal disclaimers that protect the organization. 

The repetitive manual tasks of managing email signatures 

The standard approach to updating email signatures is a manual three-stage process: 

  1. Receipt of an individual change or setup request that must be captured, interpreted, recorded, and queued for execution. 

  2. Execution of the email signature build or change, conducted by manually adjusting the account settings of the email system for each user. This requires qualified IT professionals to ensure the right settings are changed. Getting this wrong could result in messy or inaccurate email signatures, or even prevent a user from sending emails at all.  

  3. Manual testing to ensure that the email signature renders correctly across devices and platforms.  

This can be a significant overhead when scaled across hundreds or thousands of users. The issue can become particularly acute whenever: 

  • New starters join 

  • Workforce reorganizations (merged departments, new job titles, office moves, etc.) cause groups of users to need changes to their email signatures 

  • There are changes to the company brand logo, colors, etc. 

  • There are changes to legal disclaimers 

  • Management requests for special messages, links, graphics or promotional texts to be included in email signatures 

How specialist email signature management software works 

Email signature management software from leading providers like Exclaimer automates email signature deployment to boost time efficiency and support the prioritization of more important and challenging tasks.  

  • Email signatures for all email user accounts are built, changed, and managed centrally. 

  • Email signatures can be created quickly and easily with all the key components from social media icons and email banners to legal disclaimers, feedback buttons, and meeting scheduling links. 

  • Mass updates can be conducted simply, and various signatures used for different groups of senders and audiences. 

  • Consistency across email signatures becomes very straightforward by using templates. 

  • IT departments can choose to retain oversight and control over the whole email signature management process or open up limited access to marketing personnel and even users (to update their own personal data). 

The 7 ways email signature software affects time management 

Saves time 

Administering changes to email signatures is far faster and easier. One-time updates can be applied to multiple users or groups. The net effect is fewer hours spent on a task IT professionals find unrewarding. 

Omits IT from non-IT tasks 

IT pros no longer have to be involved in all aspects of email signature management. Marketing colleagues can be granted access to signature designers and campaign management, while users can be enabled to update specific personal email signature details without compromising the integrity of directory services. 

Enables finite resources to focus on more strategic tasks and projects 

With a faster and more frictionless email signature management system, the IT department’s available resources are less thinly stretched. This claws back valuable time that can be spent on innovations rather than operations-based work. 

Removes haste from internal operations  

Good email signature management means no more rushing to catch-up on queued up change tasks. It contributes toward a calmer work environment that fosters greater accuracy, with more space and time to make reliable, well-considered decisions. 

Accelerates digital onboarding of new employees  

New starters based anywhere can be embraced and equipped more rapidly as part of a fully digital onboarding process. This allows organizations to optimize the success of new hires, safeguard employee retention and start gaining value from day one. 

Makes IT users more productive 

It isn’t just IT teams that become more productive with email signature management – all IT users benefit from a slicker system that works the way it should. Users are never slowed down by email signatures because the organization is making best use of this valuable email ‘real estate’ to drive interactions, promote a consistent brand experience, and deliver clear messages to the market. 

Less disruption 

A better email signature management approach spells an easier ride for the IT support desk. By reducing the number of unpredicted enquiries to the IT department, disruption is minimized and the planning of individual and team time allocations is straightforward. 

Learn more about the benefits of deploying Exclaimer throughout your organization, or get a free demo to see for yourself. 

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