We all think we are saving costs, pushing new projects back and pruning the odd budget code here and there.
But are we really saving money and providing the best possible service?
As all of us have had to during the recent downturn, explored all of our outgoings and slashed our costs bases both where we needed to and where we were told (a story for another day…).
But are we really looking to add real innovation and projects that provide real ROI to the whole business or just thinking about our own cost bases?
Do you continue to carry on as normal, having accepted the market conditions that have affected everyone or do you think about your contribution and how you can add more value for less money.
To perform a real roots and branch review takes courage and adds a degree of transparency to the IT department; both of which are something an IT Director would normally like to leave well alone.
But this is a time when something really must be done, both to show the rest of the business that IT is really an integral part of it beyond mere statements and to add real value whilst spending less.
Not possible I hear you say but if you actually start with taking away the projects you think the business needs as well as the time/resource trying to tell them so and actually engage with them, you can start working with them on delivering projects that make a real difference as well as sharing the costs and resources.
I know this may already have your palms sweating and thinking that its easy for him to say as he doesn’t know my company, but working together more often (other than agreeing to and never doing so over that late night drink at the 2-day senior management offsite or flashing a forced smile at them at a board meeting when given ‘friendly’ feedback) will become easier and even rewarding over time.
In fact, rather than an IT presentation becoming target practice for disgruntled peers taking pot-shots over project delays or regaling you for not understanding what they really want, you may start to procure positive engagement from them once you start listening to their real issues.
Now, these projects could range from collaboration on systems such as replacing the creaking CRM tool or better empowering the Intranet that nobody seems to use except the CEO for broadcasting their message to the company or for looking up extension numbers….
There are a number of obvious areas right away to look at for where you can save costs and seek to improve service levels such as how you are providing internal desktop support, vendor pricing/contracts, software development or network provision.
Are you really providing these services as best you can or just holding on to them, as you don’t want to relinquish any of your ‘power’ bases?
Are the teams you have working on them the best available or what you can afford?
When you negotiate new vendor contracts, do you squeeze the best out of them regarding service provision or cost?
Are you courting new suppliers or just staying with your current ones you’ve been using for years as they ‘know you’ and are already offering you their best pricing options……cough?
The size of your operation doesn’t really matter here, obviously the larger you are the more money you can save but cutting fractions from the smaller operations all add up to something whole that will not only please you but may also mean that monthly meeting with the finance team will be a far more pleasant experience each month.
Of primary importance is the need to engage your own team(s) in this roots and branch review and make sure all of them are as focused on doing this as you are.
Having your own people switched on and fully engaged in this is vital and will allow real collaboration both internally and externally facing when getting the message across.
There is always overlap in your own areas you already know of but this type of review brings to light those grubby little things that always need to get done but are often overlooked and never looked at with a more meaningful eye.
Often when these smaller issues are reviewed, they naturally lead in to larger discussions on how they can be improved or even eradicated.
These are normally reviewed with much gnashing of teeth but are often the stepping-stones up to allow you to look over the wall to a brighter future!
More often than not, there are manual interventions that keep systems running such as the stored procedure that ‘Steve’ in IT Support runs every Thursday morning which updates the invoice tables in your finance system (something the new vendor told you would be fixed if you chose their system but obviously never was despite an extra couple of consultancy days and a looming maintenance release….).
These little interventions that provide the knitting between systems often cause the most angst between IT and the rest of the business.
They are typically the first thing mentioned in monthly meetings and are the gremlins that eschew system reporting across the business.
Naturally, is it time to look at outsourcing, offshoring etc.?
Most of the time, outsourcing any or all of these services will provide a better service at a lower cost than you are currently managing in servicing it yourself.
Also, throw in 24x7x365 support across the piece and being woken up in the night or being hassled first thing in the morning by foreign support issues will start to fade away with a happier user experience had all round.
This may be a scary step for those that haven’t done it but do you really want to control every flashing light in the business or make a real contribution to its future?
With the advent of cloud computing, some of the management and operational control of systems will naturally flow in to the business.
You won’t be needed for aspects of change control, permissions requests, report creation or extra disk space but will you miss this?
This is something that needs to be embraced but doesn’t mean control is ceded but shared as you will naturally be involved on an advisory basis.
You are a trusted advisor to your business and rather than regale them on moving to a cloud solution, get on board and help them out as they will need you more than you think.
You will find that the business and peers will in fact respect you for even performing this roots and branch review, as all senior people know how tough it is to do so.
I truly believe that not only providing more for less cost is possible but the business will be able to recycle the cost in to providing more meaningful services and hopefully propelling you towards a rightful seat at the top table (or adding a more comfortable cushion on to your seat if already there).
Some may say that IT is dying, which is far from happening but it is the start of another cycle in technology where cost and results are more prevalent than ever.
IT Directors are no longer able to stay in the shadows and hope the market picks up around them but rather it is time for them to step out into the sunlight and lead the way.
You never know, it could be exactly what you have been waiting for.
Good luck and let me know how you get on.