If ain't broke, you might still need to replace it

The basic mistrust of IT by senior executives has been going on far too long now. When all this stuff was so new that only a select few had any idea what it was all about, you could excuse management for being somewhat wary of the new breed of boffins with their expensive toys. But how long must this go on?

There's a basic flaw in the endless demands from the upper echelons to do "more with less" in the IT department. If it was that easy, any honest CIO or IT manager would already be doing just that. Sure it's the job of the big bosses to occasionally kick-arse down the line to make sure everyone is pulling their weight, but if you start from a basic assumption that IT is a waste of money and space, you won't get the result you expected.

You'd be hard pressed to find a C-Level executive carrying on about the cost of repair versus replacement in the motor pool, yet those very same executives are too easily snowed by the latest gee-whiz report that suggests IT wastes company funds on new toys instead of fixing the old ones.

For starters, maintenance has always taken up far too much time, and nobody can be expected to be very enthusiastic about the task. It's always more fun to work with new toys, but everyone knows the old toys have to keep working until they are due for replacement. The key here is to know when it's time to replace instead of repair, and that's when bosses need to rely on their IT experts, the same way they rely on the motor mechanics to keep their executive chariots on the road.

When the CIO says it's time for a new widget, take a leap of faith and trust that the advice is based on what's best for the company. Don't assume that every IT request for expenditure is based on an innate desire by nerds and geeks to get their hands on shiny new toys. But you can also safely assume that a small amount of the IT budget is going towards some nice-to-have, rather than essential, items.

Chasing productivity requires an IT budget that grows in proportion to the percentage of the business that's been automated and you've got to allow some room for a bit of window dressing if you want to be in charge of the best shop in town. If you think you can forklift in a hot, new IT solution and then just supply power for the next three years, think again.

Cutting back on IT spending won't just leave your company standing still - you'll soon discover that you're further behind than when you started, because your competitors trusted their IT team to do more than just polish the existing infrastructure.

Don't put the brakes on innovation in the mistaken belief that maintenance alone will deliver productivity gains.

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