There\u2019s a tradeoff IT shops make daily - maintenance vs. innovation. A lot of IT staff time is devoted to maintaining hardware and software. Applying patches, upgrading hardware and software, replacing obsolete systems, and configuring and reconfiguring devices are all part of maintaining the infrastructure to keep it running smoothly.Maintenance may be time consuming, but it is also a necessary part of running an IT shop. Unfortunately, maintenance takes IT staff time that could have been used to work on more innovative projects - projects that could provide a company with a competitive edge, or that could improve the effectiveness of a critical business process. So although maintenance is necessary, we should strive to minimize the time that it takes IT staffs to do.Now I\u2019m not advocating that IT shops cut corners and fail to properly maintain their infrastructure. That would be a very short-term and shortsighted approach. But I am advocating that IT shops look for ways to minimize maintenance time. Here are a few suggestions.First, use management tools that allow easy administration of multiple systems\/devices with minimal effort. Many IT staffs are using tools that are inadequate for administering groups of devices, or they\u2019re not using any tool at all.Second, consolidate the functions of point tools where possible. While point management tools that come with your hardware are very cost-effective (in many cases they are free) and they do the job, your staff may be wasting time by having to learn how to use too many tools, and jumping from tool to tool to get a job done. Consolidating functions into a smaller number of tools will reduce the overhead of training and time. The money you saved by using a free or inexpensive tool may be costing you more money in manpower costs because of inefficiencies.Third, invest in proper training for your people. We\u2019ve been hearing increasingly that many companies have cut their training budgets to reduce expenses. If your people aren\u2019t properly trained, they may not be fully utilizing the management capabilities your tools offer. With proper training, they may learn about productivity features of the management tools, so they can use them to cut down the time it takes for maintenance.Fourth, invest in proper tools. Companies are slashing budgets, but sometimes it takes money to save money. By far, personnel costs are one of the largest components of expense in most organizations. So investing in a management tool that can save a lot of people time could reap significant benefits for a company in the long term. Be careful that a short-term savings in cheap tools doesn\u2019t cause long-term expenses.Fifth, develop a strategy for infrastructure maintenance. Determine what tool you need to minimize the time spent on maintenance, as well as when you will replace obsolete equipment, upgrade software, etc. Proper planning can go a long way to effective and efficient maintenance. Scheduling your maintenance could even out the demands on your staff\u2019s time.Finally, set your priorities and keep them in balance. Having the latest and greatest release as soon as it comes out may not be the best use of your staff\u2019s time. The priority should be on creating innovation for your company. So if there are conflicts between innovating and maintenance, be sure to prioritize the tasks and keep the priorities in balance.