Drinking From a Firehose: Stop Fighting Fires and Make Real Progress on Your Utility’s IT Strategy

Digital transformation should be about more than just reacting to and fixing problems. Here's how you can make real progress on your utility's IT strategy.


You have dozens of unanswered calls on your phone, and your desktop is overflowing with support tickets. Your GM needs your help recovering files from their laptop, and you aren’t even an hour into your workday. Forget about an IT strategy—you’re just focused on staying afloat. Sound familiar?

When you’re an IT professional at a large water or wastewater utility, staying on top of day to day tasks can feel like a challenge. If you aren’t attending to a deluge of support requests or fighting fires, you’re worried about keeping legacy systems online or attending to a backlog of security updates. Instead of preparing for the future, you’re just worried about staying afloat.

Rather than let this tidal wave wear you down, we’ve developed a few strategies to help you stem the flow, give your team room to breathe, and implement practices that deliver exceptional service in the long run.

1. Make Self-Service Support as Easy as Possible

Few things are as frustrating for an IT team as having to field the same question over and over again. It gets in the way of more important work, and if you aren’t careful it can make the rest of your organization unreasonably dependent on IT to solve non-technical issues.

That’s why one of the quickest ways to stem the flow of repetitive support tickets is to anticipate them with a great internal FAQ, wiki or central knowledge repository—basically somewhere you can direct users who have questions you’ve answered many times before.

Building out one of these resources can have implications that reach beyond IT. In fact, the average employee spends about 9.3 hours a week poring over email threads and other communications searching for internal company information they need to do their jobs.

In addition to cutting down on support tickets, an IT knowledge repository can play a crucial role in onboarding and make your organization more friendly to new users in general, create discipline around which tools your organization uses, and also offers you the opportunity to proactively communicate a digital strategy to the rest of the organization in the form of a digital playbook.

2. Get the Rest of Your Organization Involved in Your IT Strategy

Another great way to anticipate and fix problems earlier is to involve team members more closely in your IT strategy by establishing a committee or council composed of directors across the different departments in your organization.

Getting managers to flag and discuss broader IT problems in this way won’t just cut down on support tickets. It also lets you offload some of the burden of implementing your digital strategy, gets everyone on the same page when it comes to tools, and will make staff in general feel more invested in your IT strategy in general.

Involving people in your IT strategy this way also helps you avoid so-called custom “shadow IT” initiatives pursued by impatient managers. These can be terrible for IT workflow: they introduce tools and systems that the rest of the organization is unfamiliar with, emboldens other departments to do the same, and could bring your organization to a grinding halt if the manager responsible ever goes on vacation.

3. Choose Low-Maintenance Tools

When procuring new software, keep an eye out for tools that empower your users to be self-sufficient, rather than having to depend on you or an external consultant for instruction.

Use Cloud-Based Tools by Default

A great way to do this is to default to cloud-based tools, which require less time to set up, don’t have a backend for you to worry about, and are often designed to be more intuitive and customer-facing.

Talk to Your Users

Are there any tools or software that staff at your company already use privately, or have experience using at other jobs? If so, implementing them officially could be a great way to save onboarding time and make your users even more self-sufficient.

Explore ‘No Code’ Solutions

Another way to make the software your organization uses more friendly to team members is to leverage so-called ‘no code’ solutions, which offer non-technical team members the chance to understand and even contribute to your team’s technical processes and systems.

Update Your Legacy Systems

If your organization depends on outdated, clunky legacy systems, they’re probably depending on you to put out the fires that those systems cause as well.

If there’s a system or software that takes up a particularly large chunk of your time, consider flagging it with management. Make sure to consider and communicate the resources you might save by replacing it with a more contemporary solution.

4. Automate, Where Reasonable

Automate as many of the mundane tasks involved in your day-to-day work as possible. Once you’ve implemented an FAQ or internal wiki, for example, try complementing it with a support chatbot that can answer basic support questions. If you rely on email or direct messaging to process support tickets, consider implementing a system purpose-built to handle support tickets for IT like Zendesk.

5. Consolidate, and Work With Vendors Who Support Multiple Functions

Another pain point that IT operators at utilities face is the excessively complicated tangle of software solutions they’re currently expected to support.

To this end, application consolidation is key when it comes time to start overhauling and procuring new systems.

As much as you can, avoid overlap and redundancy in your systems by picking vendors that support multiple functions, rather than just one.

Take Klir, for example. To complement your procurement process, Klir offers modules to manage permitting, sampling, inspections and more. These modules are available à la carte, or can be combined as a complete water management system.

Klir doesn’t just enable utilities to remediate environmental and human health risks quickly: it also helps managers decide where and when to invest and surfaces opportunities for efficiencies that are difficult to see with spreadsheets or more opaque systems.

How Klir can help

Klir is a single, unified operating system for water, pulling every aspect of water management into an easy to use dashboard. Learn more about how Klir can cut down on administration and recordkeeping work, create new opportunities for collaboration, and provide a level of system-wide visibility unmatched by other water data management systems.

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