Monday, December 1, 2008

Real cost savings in IT spending

IT savings is all the rage here in the States. With budgets tightening and falling stock prices everyone, and I mean everyone is looking for ways to cut costs and yet still somehow maintain the same level of business operation and quality.

Well here are my 5 fitness tips for trimming the fat in IT spending, where you could create significant value while reducing costs.

1) Stop doing things twice, and use automation. Quality assurance has long been viewed as a necessary evil. The reality however is that it is business critical if you want to avoid major customer satisfaction issues and maintain security and compliance coverage. Human capital is always the largest expense in issuing quality checks. However, most systems could be designed and built with error checking and quality validation as part of the build and design. If your development organization is writing code, and your QA team is checking code, you are wasting money. Get these teams to an agile development workshop so that they can start to think about optimization techniques that could eliminate teams of business analysts manually testing or having to write ineffective regression automation scripts.

2) "Do it yourself" only where it makes sense. Too many organizations have leveraged internal staff in a figure it out mode. While this build longer-term internal knowledge capital and can work towards job satisfaction and retention, it ultimately is more expensive. Where the function is core to your business model then it makes sense. Otherwise look to an Software as a service, or Manages Service Provider who can give you economies of scale with point expertise.
Most providers have demonstrated ROI in a 2 year period in both CapEx and OpEx.

3) Tune business processes not just systems. In the past 9 years of managing performance engineering teams, I have learned one thing. It is always faster to fix how people use a system, then to tweak an poorly designed system. So before embarking on expensive load testing and system tuning efforts, evaluate the end-users usage of the system through operational profiling. Monitor and shadow users for a week. It will be enlightening how many time saving tips you can bring to the business community without spending any additional cash.

4) Monitor the end user's experience not just the infrastructure. OK, you'll have to spend some money up-front. However, the pay back can be significant if transactions are properly captured and labeled. By monitoring the performance and availability of critical transactions, this allows you to focus and "break-fix" dollars on key business driving processes. Many organizations have embarked on fixing system issues that really aided very little in the operational aspect of a business. By knowing where you can create gains in the environment to affect the business, you can plan and spend with significantly greater value.

5) Integrate request management and time tracking. Last but certainly not least, is optimizing the people. Project management tools, time tracking tools and defect tracking tools and service desk tools continue to be disjointed in many organizations. This lack of clarity to issuing and fulfilling requests leaves many, many loops holes in personnel accountability and management. In this down economy, plus during this holiday season, it is a fact that people loose focus more easily, they get distracted, and they loose ambition to take full responsibility. Providing a consolidated view of "work orders" and "work plans" will help keep your most expensive asset working optimally.

While there are many more areas within IT to cut, I believe these are the key ways in which you can reduce costs while still maintaining the highest level of quality.

Next months blog: Is now the time to start an IT Service Management initiative? I'll discuss the pro's and con's of taking on a project like this in this economy.

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