Enterprise IT workers have plenty of tasks to accomplish each day, from managing and updating computer systems to configuring machines for new users, but as much as one-third of what they try to do daily is often put off to another time due to more important systems emergencies that pop up with users.

That's the conclusion of a recent study of 1,014 IT workers who were asked about how much of their work days are spent responding to user and company IT emergencies, rather than performing a myriad of other routine maintenance that's part of their jobs.

The eight-page study, "The 2017 IT Incident & Response Report: How the Unplanned Obstructs Digital Transformation," was conducted in February for 1E, a software lifecycle automation vendor. 

According to the research, an average of 29 percent of an IT worker's day is spent servicing user requests and sorting out other unplanned tasks, with 51 percent of the respondents saying they often spend 25 to 100 percent of their days resolving such issues. The most common non-planned incidents are operations related, involving service outages or performance issues. Most of those incidents are discovered within an hour, but the mean time to fix them is more than five hours, the study found.

"In large organizations, they are shocked [by the figures] and didn't actually know how much is unplanned" when it comes to responses to IT issues, Sumir Karayi, the founder and CEO of 1E, told ITPro. "Identifying the issues takes time and then fixing them takes longer."

About five percent of the unplanned IT issues are taking more than a day to fix, and even up to a week, according to the study. "That's one in 20," said Karayi. "So in that time the businesses stop operating that thing, whatever it is," despite spending large IT budgets to provide services to users. Some one percent of those unplanned IT problems are taking more than one week to fix, he added.

"If that five percent is taking up to seven days and one percent is taking more than a week, then we're actually talking about business-critical issues here," he said. "Six percent is a pretty bad total."

IT managers knew before that lots of problems crop up that are unplanned, he said, but not at the levels seen by the study. The 29 percent of an IT worker's day spent on fixing unplanned issues is "taking a huge toll on their ability to innovate."

What would help, he said, is for IT workers to have improved systems management tools that are faster and better so they can keep systems up and running more efficiently, without unplanned down time or issues.

"It's all about keeping these users productive," he said. "This problem has been underground really. Businesses have been critical of IT being too slow, but IT can't make changes and improvements because it takes too long."