The past year’s shift to remote working has been challenging and rewarding. It has also created unprecedented pressure to deliver more from IT budgets.
In this post I’ll explore some of the ways IT leaders and managers can meet these new demands, while also investing wisely for the future.
The challenge, as always, is how to allocate your budget to get the biggest bang for your buck – not easy at the best of times, and even more difficult when priorities are shifting. But there are some common patterns and understanding them may help you identify those priorities.
First, we’re noticing that a lot of organisations have accrued technical debt over the past 12 months, and that debt is now coming due. Last year, the rush to get people working remotely took priority, and often process and security were compromised in favour of productivity and keeping the business alive. Now neglected issues of visibility, control and compliance are at the forefront of many people’s minds.
In some cases, this means unravelling substantial shadow IT, which was deemed acceptable in unprecedented times but is no longer appropriate. For example, some organisations have found themselves in a situation where many of their employees are using off the grid communication solutions such as WhatsApp as a main work communications channel. This gives IT zero visibility and limited control, leading to a security and compliance nightmare—and with limited functionality and integration to other tools, it’s not a great solution for productivity either. The common user practice of running a combination of Teams, Slack, Zoom, WebEx and more on the side, depending on who they’re talking to, just makes matters worse. Conflicting configurations and requirements can place unnecessary pressure on hardware and network resources as people use apps in ways they were never planned for.
Situations like these make addressing technical debt and imposing common standards and security a priority. That may require investment not only in technology, but also in adoption services to help ease users out of their comfort zones and into enhanced productivity and more secure ways of working.
Solving short-term technical debt without careful thinking and planning can cause problems of its own, of course, which brings me to the most important point: IT strategy, aligned to overall business strategy, has never been more important.
The good news for IT leaders is that the pandemic has enlightened organisations as to just how crucial IT and digital services are to their survival. Some of those who were struggling to be heard at C-suite or board level now find themselves with seats at the table, or an easier route to key stakeholders. Since IT’s purpose is to serve business needs, now is the time to push for alignment between business strategy and IT strategy—it’s hard to serve needs that haven’t been clearly defined!
Assuming your strategic priorities are clear, there are many places to look for IT savings, starting with the obvious: where are you actually spending right now? We’ve had many customers discover that they can reduce their spending, both on-premises and in the cloud, by decommissioning resources they aren’t using. In a typical mid-market organisation where the IT team has spent the past year working all hours just to keep the lights on, it’s not unusual to discover hundreds of virtual machines and resources that are unused but still taking up precious resource, such as CPU cycles, storage, etc. Moving these to archival storage can save thousands every month—easily enough to justify the cost of using an outsourced provider to get the job done if your team is overwhelmed with work. In fact, there are applications vendors and partners who will audit and optimise your environment in return for a cut of the savings, so there is zero cost to your budget at all.
Another good strategic use of outside resources is to explore vendor funding. Many organisations don’t even know this is an option, but major hardware and software vendors offer project-based assistive funding. This is only available through accredited partners, so you should definitely be speaking to your IT suppliers to find out what’s available.
Kyle Davies - Practice Lead, Integrated Technology Architecture
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