Too much focus on low-value activity is increasing cyber risk

For UK businesses, the fight against cybercrime and the battle to maintain data security remains a priority, with risk management front of mind for IT professionals and C-level staff alike. However, as the IT industry continues to suffer from a shortage of skilled employees and competing firms battle to attract and retain talented technology professionals, the key to reducing risk could actually lie in intelligent budgeting and resource management. 

According to research conducted with 500 IT managers, technology professionals are being distracted by a steady stream of requests for low-value support, reducing the funds and time devoted to addressing high-level tasks such as ensuring data security, thwarting cyberattack and driving innovation. Startlingly, the time spent by senior IT staff on low-skilled tasks such as changing printer cartridges and troubleshooting low-level hardware and software issues equates to more than £4.2billion of resource per year. 

The amount of resource being devoted to such tasks should be evaluated and, if possible, reduced to allow skilled employees to service other areas of the business.  

Current market conditions

Crucially, it is important to recognise that business’ concerns about the cyber security threat are not unfounded. In Q2 of 2016, four in five FTSE 100 companies were victim to potentially malicious domain registrations, enabling fraudsters to create dummy websites that can be used to trick users into supplying private data. In addition, the recent stream of highly-publicised data breaches experienced by the likes of Yahoo, TalkTalk and Tesco Bank has caused significant reputational and financial damage to those affected.  

Despite these risks, 74 per cent of IT managers do not believe their company is doing enough to protect against cyber-attacks and data breaches. 81 per cent want more time and resources to devote to cyber and data security and four in ten IT professionals describe themselves as ‘overstretched’. The IT sector skills shortage is not a new phenomenon and it is an issue that is set to intensify as demand for digital expertise grows. 

A recent Government report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee cautioned that “systemic problems with education and training need to be urgently addressed” and predicted that the UK will need another 740,000 workers with digital skills in 2017. With successful businesses relying on the expertise of technology experts to drive efficiencies, develop new systems and identify strategies for innovation, effective resource management is a must.  

Outsourcing

The outsourcing of low-level tasks to an external organisation, or even the delegation of these tasks to more junior members of the team can provide numerous and sometimes unexpected benefits. Although most roles involve the execution of some administrative or low-level duties, the senior IT staff we spoke to spent on average over a third (35 per cent) of their time on such tasks – ranging from simple software installations, hardware fixes or simply ‘turning it off and then on again’.  

Areas where businesses can most easily free up resource include the use of a third-party helpdesk function or the implementation of a managed print service. Importantly, when making these strategic purchasing decisions, it is important that members of the finance, purchasing and IT teams work collaboratively to assess the practicality and suitability of available options. Failing to consult technical specialists could lead to missed opportunities, and, in fact, four out of ten IT managers said they would like greater control over IT-related outsourcing decisions.

Practical benefits

For a demonstration of intelligent outsourcing in action, business leaders should consider partnering with service providers that can tailor their offers to the specific needs of the company. For example, a managed print service can drive significant cost savings, free up senior-level time and improve the security of data, as well as improving the firm’s environmental footprint. As with any procurement decision, gaining visibility of the business’ current costs is essential in gauging its impact. 

At present, 75 per cent of businesses are unaware of their printing costs. Larger companies can often find that a highly-organised, centralised approach to the procurement and maintenance of IT equipment can reduce cost and managed print services can slash outgoings by a quarter. Crucially, this type of outsourcing reduces the burden on the in-house IT team by taking on responsibility for monitoring paper and toner usage, allowing the automatic reordering of supplies, providing an externally-managed helpdesk able to deal with any user enquiries and facilitating the dispatch of on-call engineers to fix any hardware problems as and when they arise.  As well as freeing up the amount of time senior-level staff have available to address business-critical tasks such as cyber security and the introduction of innovative technology systems, firms can also benefit from some of the automated processes and data protection measures managed print services offer. 

For example, businesses that handle confidential customer data or privileged financial information should look into the merits of’ Print Me’ or ‘Follow Me’ software– secure release technology that requires users to enter a pin code at the printer before a copy is made, meaning that no documents are left unattended in the printer tray. With the risks posed by cyberattack continuing to grow, it is imperative that businesses empower those employees best placed to neutralise this threat – skilled IT professionals. Liberating them from low-value activities and administrative duties will ensure they are better equipped with the time and resources required to minimise cyber risks, develop new technology systems and strategies that can drive the business forward.  

In an industry where talented workers are available at a premium and time is money, IT professionals must be allowed to act alongside finance and procurement teams to make intelligent outsourcing decisions – only then can the cyber threat be adequately addressed.

Rob Jones, Head of Managed Print Services, Office Depot
Image source: Shutterstock/BeeBright

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Jones is head of managed print services at business solutions provider, Office Depot. The business has authored a guide on the benefits of efficient resource management and managed print services.