Skip to content

Keep the lights on! How to flip the switch on toil

As technology continues to evolve, so do the challenges that come with it. And one of the biggest challenges that organisations face today is the issue of technology toil. You might have heard this kind of work referred to as "keeping the lights on", but as technology has transformed so has has the nature of this essential work.

Keep the lights on (KTLO) vs technology toil

Keeping the lights on

Traditionally, the term "keeping the lights on" was used to describe the 'mundane' tasks that IT professionals had to perform to keep the organisation's systems up and running. This included tasks such as fixing bugs, performing updates, and troubleshooting issues.

The phrase "keep the lights on" has its origins in owning and managing physical infrastructure, and sees IT operations as essential but relatively simple - it's 'just' infrastructure, how hard could it be right?

Technology toil

In recent years, the term "technology toil" has emerged to describe the repetitive, manual tasks that IT teams have to perform to keep systems up and running. This includes tasks such as monitoring systems, patching software, and responding to alerts and incidents. While these tasks are essential for maintaining the stability and security of an organisation's systems, they can be time-consuming and take away from more strategic work.

The term "keeping the lights on" was often used in a dismissive manner to describe these tasks, implying that they were mundane and unimportant. However, the term "technology toil" recognises their importance and the fact that they require significant time and resources to execute effectively, especially in increasingly complex environments. By acknowledging the importance of technology toil, organisations can better prioritize and allocate resources to ensure that their technology systems remain reliable and secure.

Why has toil become such a pressing issue?

1) The race to the cloud

The rise of cloud computing that has made technology easier to create and consume, has fundamentally changed how IT teams operate. With cloud computing, organisations can easily scale their infrastructure up or down as needed, without having to worry about managing physical hardware. But, this has made their jobs even more complex, as they are expected to manage complex systems in a constantly changing environment, with multiple vendors and services to keep track of. This includes managing security threats, ensuring compliance with regulations, and optimising systems for peak performance. 

Teams need ways to capture and codify critical knowledge, share it across the team, and automate as much as possible of these critical tasks. This won't just cut down on toil, but will also reduce the stress (and burnout) that comes from trying to juggle too many plates.

Read more: The burnout factor of toil


2) Technology *is* the business model

Another reason why technology toil has become such a pressing issue is the increasing importance of technology in driving business outcomes.

In today's digital economy, organisations rely heavily on technology to drive innovation, improve customer experiences, and increase efficiency. This means that IT professionals need to focus more on strategic, value-adding work, rather than just keeping the lights on.

Traditional IT sees technology as a support mechanism for the business, but the very fact it is *infrastructure* shows how it an enabler of the business and its use is being increasingly (and positively) linked to business goals and outcomes. 

Toil hinders this relationship, because it drains skilled staff time away from strategic, value added work. 

Read more: Why you should care about the impact toil has on your business.

3) Skills are in short supply, and toil is a waste of skilled time

Competition for skills means that IT teams are challenged to recruit and retain skilled engineers. 70% of respondents to a Financial Times survey said that recruiting the right skills for the job was preventing them from keeping up with the pace of change.

If your engineers are spending upwards of 75% of their time on toil, that's a huge opportunity cost to the business as well as real cash cost too. Check out the toil calculator to work out what toil could be costing you.

black background, cartoon of stressed people with the copy "what's toil costing you"

How can organisations address toil?

To address the issue of technology toil, organisations need to adopt a more proactive approach to IT management. This includes automating repetitive tasks, implementing self-healing systems, and investing in tools that can help IT teams to work more efficiently. By reducing the amount of time spent on technology toil, these teams can then focus on more strategic work that drives business outcomes.

Cloudsoft AMP is a powerful automation tool, designed to reduce toil by up to 75% and improve reliability. AMP helps teams operating in complex environments to cut through that complexity, because it is infrastructure-independent and can manage environments across private clouds, public clouds, on-premises environments and container platforms.

Learn more


Related Posts