IT productivity is under increasing focus as businesses look for ways to reduce the cost of their daily business operations and increase profitability.

Achieving these cost savings and conforming to best practices and Service Level Agreements within the IT department frequently requires investment in a number of related IT solutions, not just the purchase of a single tool to address one specific problem.

An additional pressure, highlighted in recent findings by the National Computer Centre (NCC) and IT Governance Institute (ITGI), is a growing concern about the lack of skilled IT staff within business. As companies become ever more dependent on IT this shortage becomes more apparent and, despite its growing costs, the process of retraining and recruiting quality IT staff is inevitable in order for the business to continue to succeed and sustain a competitive advantage.

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has outlined best practices for IT services management through its IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), benchmarks that CIOs take very seriously. One of the processes that ITIL addresses is incident management, instructing IT administrators to minimise end-user impact when client-side incidents arise. Businesses lose time and money when allotting additional resources for incident management.

The right solution, for any task, can empower the end-user to solve many of his or her own IT problems effectively, reduce the number of calls to the IT help desk and therefore allow the IT department to work on larger issues and strategic planning.

For example, in 2007, 61 percent of support centres and organisations surveyed by the Help Desk Institute (HDI) felt that incidents were increasing and that it was due to the changes in infrastructure or products. In this environment, managers must constantly embrace and prepare for changes within their support centres.

Furthermore, when respondents were asked what they would do regarding the tools and technology used in their support organisations “if money were no object,” a large percentage said they would “throw it all away and start over”.

There is a willingness among IT administrators to make technology investments. While buying a stand-alone product may ‘fix’ a specific problem, a ‘solution’ combines multiple related products and allows the company to concentrate on strategic objectives such as business expansion, upgrades, regulatory compliance and energy efficiency.

A holistic approach to IT management should be taken. In the case of an incident management solution, IT Administrators should begin with a helpdesk ticketing system. Via email, end users can log problems as tickets, allowing them to view the status of their open ticket.

While companies that have a help desk tool can reduce their overall support costs significantly, help desk tools do not specifically address password errors. Yet HDI estimates that 40 percent of all level one help desk calls are password related.

The pain of password management - the single most common IT help desk support issue - is becoming more pervasive. Many organizations face the challenge of trying to increase security while also reducing support costs. If a business can reduce the number of calls that a help desk has to take by 40 percent, simply by having the ability for users to reset their passwords themselves, IT or support managers instantly see a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of the company.

IT support now faces the challenge of managing help desk tickets coming from workers outside of the corporate firewall. In order for these workers to continue being productive, whether temporarily or permanently out of office, a service needs to be in place to ensure that end-users’ incidents can be addressed quickly.

With this goal in mind, businesses should look into a remote assistance and control solution which allows the administrator to instantly fix desktop problems regardless of the user’s location, preferably with minimal user disruption. The ideal solution does not require that a user be connected to the corporate network (e.g. through a VPN) but should provide instant assistance for any user on the Internet.

With this in place, the IT department can see dramatic increases in user and administrator productivity, as well as lower travel costs. Hence, the ideal incident management solution must also combine remote access and management with the help desk tracking tool and password tool.

The ITIL standards are designed to improve processes for IT productivity. By investing in a solution to address even one process, such as incident management, the IT department could save its company thousands of pounds for years to come.

Jon Rolls is senior director of product management at ScriptLogic Corporation