- November 30, 2017
- Posted by: Jim Kromer
- Category: IT Consulting
IT departments often feel as if they are expected to be miracle workers on the order of Montgomery Scott. Truth is, companies don’t always have the budget to hire the staff required either in numbers or in skill set. Which leaves the IT director trying to work out how to deliver more than their staff is capable of. The end result is often missed expectations, damaged perception and more expense for the company.
So, what can the IT director do?
- Establish an effective IT budget – the challenge often being the IT staff are not included in the strategic planning of the organization, forcing IT to guess at what will be asked of them in the coming year. This turns the budget process into a combative environment between IT and Finance which can result in IT receiving a budget and being told to stay within it. Instead, companies should have IT and Finance briefed on corporate goals and priorities so they can work together to design a budget that supports both core functions and investment. This can lead to IT spending being properly tracked and its impact on the organizational budget monitored, while allowing IT to set reasonable expectation for delivery of services.
- Use virtual teams – this reduces administrative overhead in larger companies by reducing the staff to manager ratio. Fewer managers means more money to spend on people with the actual skills needed to keep the IT department running.
- Reduce software and hardware costs. This includes being smart when negotiating with vendors – and using people with negotiation skills who understand the company’s IT needs, rather than pushing somebody who’s primary skillset is coding into a negotiation situation where they will be eaten alive. Looking at costs before a contract comes up helps. The biggest thing is to eliminate so-called shelfware – software you are spending money on and nobody is actually using. For some things it may also be worth looking at using an open source application rather than expensive commercial software.
Invest in an effective asset management system to avoid paying for maintenance on hardware which is end of life, or no longer in use. Track your assets to be sure you are not paying maintenance on equipment which has yet to be deployed – data center assets can eat up budgets quickly.
- Use more cloud software that is updated incrementally, ideally by the vendor. This eliminates the cyclic refresh when IT has to go around and install updates on all computers. It makes life easier for employees too, especially ones who work at home. This then frees up employees to work on more urgent problems, such as providing tech support.
- Improve communication. Make sure that when people from different departments talk to each other they are using the same words for the same thing, and educate non-IT personnel on IT terminology and jargon.
- Deprecate legacy applications and hardware. It is often a false economy to keep an old PC or server running past obsolescence as they cost more in maintenance (and result in frustrated users). Although replacing a legacy application can be an immediate cost in time and money, it will save cost in the long term.
- Avoid writing applications from scratch. Legacy applications cost a lot to maintain, resist the temptation to rework code that is working perfectly fine. Instead of writing from scratch, research development tools, use pieces of code from elsewhere, or start with a commercial package and tweak it. Write from scratch only when business needs absolutely require it.
- Scripts, scripts, scripts. Look for low-level, repeated tasks that can be automated and do so. 30% of an IT team’s time is spent on repetitive tasks. Another way to get rid of low-level tasks is to provide better education to users so they can fix minor incidents themselves. Training everyone in the office to do basic troubleshooting can save IT from coming down only to find a reboot fixes the problem.
- Avoid physical desktop support when possible. IT should be able to do most troubleshooting remotely, working with the end user. Virtual machines help with this, allowing new profiles to be created and most software issues to be fixed remotely. The only time IT should be going to somebody’s office is if you are sure it is a hardware problem.
- Consider outsourcing some of your IT tasks to a managed services company. Basic level tech support is often a good target for this. For some companies, it can be cheaper to outsource the service desk, basic application patching and even hardware monitoring so as to free up local staff to work on innovation, or allow you to appear to do more with the same “head count.”
Regardless of the size of the company, there are ways to do more with less – and reduce everyone’s stress and headaches. And if you need more help, contact PARC consulting to find out about our IT consulting and managed services.