The ‘firefighter’ role still dominates in IT – study

While firms are under pressure to keep pace with the influx of digital technology, IT staff often feel frustrated that they are still fixing the same old problems instead of focusing on the innovation and digital transformation that will driver the wider business forward.

This is according to a new study by computing accessories firm that Kensington that 32% of IT decision makers have said they spend more time reacting to problems in the workplace than proactively developing and delivering an IT strategy.

Nearly a third of respondents said they felt like the ‘firefighter’ in the organisation, and that they are not allowed enough time to improve employee productivity and wellbeing through the use of technology.

> See also: How to move beyond digital transformation

On average, IT professionals spend 44% of their day on troubleshooting and administrative tasks – both of which are barriers for implementing change in the organisation. It’s therefore no surprise that just 5% is committed to providing IT training to employees.

When asked about their frustrations when managing IT solutions for the organisation, they admitted being hampered by lack of time/resources (44%), insufficient budget (40%), IT being viewed as a cost, not an opportunity (36%), and employees disregarding the ‘rules’ (28%).

'Many IT decision makers are left feeling undervalued and underutilised in their organisation,' said George Foot, Vice President at Kensington. 'The IT department is the most common driver of implementing technologies to improve productivity, yet our research suggests that too much of their time is instead allocated to administrative and helpdesk duties.”

The firm found that IT professionals are expected to juggle many different responsibilities, making it increasingly difficult for them to focus on strategy.

'After all,' said Foot, 'they will only prosper and feel more valued if they can allocate sufficient time and resources to advocate and plan the use of technology to directly impact the organisation’s bottom line.'

Observing the dominance of the firefighter role, Ben Hawkes, business psychologist and director of, commented on why IT managers still feel they need more empowerment:

'IT professionals are far from alone in being firefighters: their colleagues across all business functions – from Sales to HR to Finance – feel the same way,' said Hawkes. 'Part of the problem is that IT professionals make great firefighters, but then that’s how they get pigeonholed by their colleagues outside of IT.'

> See also: Five ways to reorganise and embark on a digital transformation journey

To overcome this issue, he devised three top tips to help IT remove their firefighter hat:

It’s easy to focus on tasks that are high importance and high urgency: that’s firefighting. But strategy and proactivity are HILU: High Importance and Low Urgency

Carve out time every day if possible, says Hawkes, to devote to HILU tasks. Set aside time not just in your schedule, but also in meetings and in conversations with your manager to discuss strategy and proactivity

If you think your non-IT colleagues don’t understand what IT does, you’re right. And only IT can change that. Make your work visible to your organisation through regular communications, newsletters or even roadshows.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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