The hunt for cost savings is constant, but which areas of IT should organisations focus on?
Four of the most important areas where IT cost savings can be created at an organisational level are infrastructure consolidation, application consolidation, enterprise systems management and the use of managed services.
Any or all of these approaches can be combined into a strategy designed to increase process efficiencies and reduce maintenance costs. The key is to ensure that each of the projects can deliver immediate and measurable goals.
Infrastructure consolidation is usually the province of hardware, such as servers and storage systems, and application consolidation should begin with an accurate audit of existing software resources. In each case, eliminating unused or redundant resources has an immediate effect on operational costs through consolidation. Organisations need to be careful not to slash away any necessary systems in their eagerness to cut costs.
The need to make better use of existing IT resources is obvious, which is where systems management comes into play. This wide-ranging discipline includes looking at the total cost of ownership of IT systems, managing existing equipment and buying new systems.
The biggest drawback is the relative expense of the software tools used for managing systems. It may also take months to plug the system into the processes that must be controlled, so the timescale for returns will be variable.
Managed services can be used to trim costs. The theory is familiar and extensively used. Simply select one or more providers with domain expertise and/or appropriate levels of network resource and enforce a clear service level agreement from the outset. The real picture of course is not this rosy, and serious issues such as whether or not the supplier sticks to service level agreements in the contract have complicated many managed service relationships.
This is, however, another option that can generate quick returns and even some small profit if the organisation sells off resources that are no longer required.
Return on investment calculators are available from a variety of suppliers and independent consultants to help support internal decision-making processes and assessments.
Although the long-term strategy should be to create a series of successful tactical wins, the IT director ought to take the time to remain closely involved with each individual project and maintain support from the highest levels.
In time, it will inevitably become necessary to propose IT projects that will be disruptive, but necessary, to ensure the progress of the enterprise.
Alan Lawson is a research analyst at Butler Group