In the current operating environment all businesses are looking to streamline their IT operations, reduce operating costs and optimise capital expenditure. Despite spending constraints, there are some key opportunities that organisations can take to improve the performance of their IT environment, and their bottom line. Here are some simple steps that can contribute to IT savings and operational efficiencies.
Catch up first
Most organisations have significant areas of technology which are obsolete or end-of-life. Often these are the easiest areas to make large gains, as the technology has been stabilised and there are skilled resources already available with experience in the transformed technology.
For example, if you haven’t virtualised yet, you are in for a treat as it’s easier now than it has ever been. Also cloud-based email platforms are now enterprise ready and offer significant cost improvements over traditional on-site deployments. The mistakes others have made will not be repeated in your organisation.
The adage “walk before you run” is particularly appropriate when transforming your architecture - get the basics right and define a clear, coherent plan before adding new cutting-edge technologies that “vendor X” is pushing.
Simplify your processes
IT is great at providing the capability to automate mundane tasks, however, automating a broken business process will only result in “doing dumb stuff, faster”. Spend the time up-front to understand what outcomes you actually want, and then remove unprofitable activities prior to attempting to automate them.
Outsourced or best-sourced operating models often increase process complexity. As an example, a business process that requires six approvals to procure a $60 Ethernet cable is wasting both time and money. Other examples include out-of-hand IT change control that stifles innovation and costs thousands of man hours a year.
Spend the time to map your processes, streamline and simplify them as much as possible prior to automating them. You will save yourself a lot of time, money and grief.
Don’t do what you don’t know
Many organisations try to take on IT projects in-house when they don’t really have the expertise to do so. Often, what looks like a good idea on initial inspection can in reality result in cost and time blowouts or failure to deliver.
Getting the right expertise in the early stages can save a fortune over the life of the project, and even result in alternative solutions to the business problem that are much more efficient.
An independent review of a vendor’s proposed solution is also invaluable to determine if it’s a good fit for your organisation. Vendors will only tell you the upside of what they are proposing. It’s important to obtain an objective, balanced view which can provide a true understanding of risks and opportunities related to the proposed solution.
Transform your storage
There are large savings to be made in storage if you are currently operating on end-of-life hardware, or legacy ‘per gigabyte’ storage models. Today most companies are experiencing “storage squeeze” due to their rapidly increasing demands. New technology is changing what was traditionally a fairly straight-forward domain.
Leverage commodity disk arrays, front end network attached storage (NAS) de-duplication (i.e. which prevents storing the same information twice), and move off tape to virtual tape libraries in your next technology refresh and enjoy the savings.
Manage your IT assets
Despite appearing mundane, having a clear understanding of your IT assets can illuminate many avenues for cost reduction in your organisation.
Firstly, understand your volumes and match what vendors are billing you for against what you actually own or use, which can result in significant claw back. This is not just servers and PCs but printers, telecommunications services and storage.
Be aware of what systems are coming up to end-of-life and plan for the future. Unnecessary and unexpected costs can occur when organisations are forced into a corner and have to rush into a technology refresh, and often this results when confronted with a like-for-like replacement, preventing a transformation opportunity offered by a new generation of technology.
Have a plan to replace hardware as it ages, or reset the clock if assets are to be sweated for longer. Be in control of the built-in obsolescence the IT industry has cunningly engineered, and take control of the opportunities that a technology refresh offers.
Hold your breath on telephony and data
The government subsidised fibre deployment programmes in Australia and New Zealand will significantly reduce bandwidth costs and increase capacity and resiliency options. The media speaks mostly about gains to home internet performance, but there will also be significant savings for business customers. Make sure you keep your options and contracts open in the next few years.
Keep a close eye on offerings from voice and unified communications vendors, as the demise of mega-vendor Nortel has created a flurry of activity in this space. Seek independent help to understand what hosted and commoditised solutions can provide when looking to refresh telephony environments.
Most organisations don’t have unlimited IT capacity or expertise, which means that they can only take on a limited number of projects at a time. The above recommendations are beneficial for your company as they often do not require large teams of IT skilled people to deliver benefits.
They are initiatives that can be accelerated using independent expertise, and will free up internal resources and funding to allow your IT staff to work more intimately with your business to deliver the next ‘the big thing’.
Lyle Ginever, is a senior associate of NZ consulting firm Tomorrow.
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