Staff are often blamed, cursed and lambasted for crashing their own computers, causing havoc with email and wasting the IT manager's time, but is it really their fault? At the same time, users curse the IT team when technical problems slow them down, cause missed deadlines and hold up communication between colleagues. Urvesh Lakhani examines how business can use technology to eliminate human error.

It's true that the most common IT pain points are human, not technological. But at the end of the day, it's the business's job to protect itself, staff and IT and to halt the growing disconnect between the two.
A business needs to work in harmony with its people, processes and technology ensuring all three factors are constantly considered in relation to one another. Businesses are heavily reliant on systems and human interaction. The interaction between the these factors needs to be carefully managed, monitored and reviewed if businesses are to fully benefit from their expensive IT and staffing investments.

Businesses need to recognise the importance of the applications and tools that are important to staff. Unless the correct systems are put in place and managed correctly, a business will not run efficiently.
To give an example, one major bank failed to invest in its email systems, even though email controlled almost all critical supply chains, such as ordering bank notes. Staff were being criticised for miscommunication and badly timed emails, but the blame actually lay with business, who had not agreed any service level agreements (SLAs) on email with the IT department, and could actually have provided a faster and more appropriate tool for communication.

While it's important to educate users on different forms of communication, the IT department also needs to ensure that the current tools and services are up to the task of handling staff demands. If handled well, technology can be used to avoid the human errors that so often blight the system.

Eliminating user error

There are a number of ways businesses can use technology to eliminate the 'user error' factor.

Businesses are more likely to pick up anomalies by developing systems that remove the need for human management. Self-healing, self-detecting, proactive systems can monitor networks and highlight problems when necessary, flagging for human intervention only where needed.
It's almost impossible for an IT department to effectively track the running of a vast number of machines and predict where the next issue will arise. To give an example of the implications of this, in an investment bank, traders usually run up to four PCs at a time. If even one machine crashes, this could prove disastrous.

If IT departments do not actively monitor and manage their networks, they won't have the adequate information to provide proactive support. It's impossible to get to the problem PC before the issue exacerbates, potentially losing the bank multi million-pound trades. Monitoring systems can provide this specialist support to avoid losing the bank's money, due to loss of service, flagging any potential risks before they happen.
Companies typically use a human-controlled 'red, amber, green' model to observe and react to systems. It is all too often users that ignore red alarms because they are not issue-specific and occur too frequently. However, by tuning the technology - allowing it to think, learn and evolve directly from the system - humans can be removed from the monitoring process entirely and only notified when potentially mission-critical problems arise.

People, process, technology

Businesses often do have systems that can remove the need for human intervention but, as the operation of such solutions is so low down the priority list, it's impossible to see how they will be managed and maintained effectively after deployment. This is when the solution becomes extremely costly and therefore unfavourable as a business model. If the system is fully tested, deployment could save an immense amount of headaches down the line.

Monitoring systems need to be integrated throughout the business, not merely restricted to the IT department. Processes need to be implemented and constantly adapt to changing circumstances, so buy-in from the entire workforce is essential. All three factors (people, process and technology) need to be considered when implementing a system. Getting the combination right can drive down costs, improve efficiencies and lead to a reduction of user error.

Urvesh Lakhani works for Avanade.