Create Standards, Automation, or a Programmer's Toolkit
One of the single greatest areas of impact is that of standardization and automation. Technology is, if nothing else, a tool to automate the mundane tasks or provide better and simpler access to good information.
To have the time to build the best technology possible and have the greatest impact on the organization, you must first find areas of your own job that can be streamlined. You can best do this through standards, automation, and a library of code, files, and ideas.
Also, stay current with new ideas, tools, and methods in the industry. Subscribe to appropriate journals and professional magazines and see what others are doing. Adopt those items that fit within the work that you do.
Standardization removes the guesswork from many areas of technology. New projects and systems become more self-documenting because the environment begins to look and feel "the same." One of my past network engineers and I used to tell our clients that we build "boring" systems. They always look and work the same.
Standards also greatly improve maintainability. Technologists who are new to the organization can learn and support the standards more quickly. Standards reduce errors and make re-engineering projects much simpler.
Automation is of critical importance, too. Many tools can help automate back-office functions and functions at the user's desktop. Some of these tools are free, whereas others can cost thousands.
Some automation tools are built into the operating systems and can provide excellent automation. Many of the tasks that you and other users do every day can be reduced or completely removed. This results in a more effective use of your time.
If you find yourself repeating certain tasks over and over, consider writing a macro to automate them. Macros effectively reduce time and errors from tedious and repetitive tasks. Macros are a simple example of a time-saving technology.
When it comes to how things are done, don't be satisfied with the status quo. We as technology professionals should be the first to apply automation and technical tools to help get our own jobs done. If not, how can we demonstrate the effectiveness to the organization(s) we serve?
As a general rule, user-level automation provides greater direct/tangible benefit to the organization. However, to be able to provide user-lever automation, you must first automate the tedious tasks in the back-office.
User configurations, software configurations, server maintenance, and so on can be automated. This leaves you time to provide support directly to the users. When you create user-level automation, you greatly increase your exposure in the company.