The holiday season typically is a time for budget reviews and strategic planning for the new year. Given the tenuous economic and political climate, most IT organizations are pleased to have survived the past year's challenges and are preparing for another year of the same. While few can afford to make major new IT investments, here are some actions you could take to improve your operations while meeting your tight budgetary constraints:
- Take a poll: Survey the major stakeholders in your organization - executives, end users, customers, partners - to determine their priorities for the coming year, how satisfied they are with current IT resources and how technology could help them meet their business objectives.
- Do an audit: Many organizations don't have an up-to-date record of their current installed base of hardware and software. A greater number don't have application-performance statistics that provide a measure of availability, reliability and response times of key systems.
- Benchmark yourself: Measuring your performance has limited value unless you compare it with your peers' or leaders' performance. Benchmarking initiatives by trade associations, user groups and research firms can provide valuable data.
- Build your team: Cutbacks have left many IT organizations reeling. Conduct a skills assessment of remaining staff, identify and fill important gaps, establish career development programs, and start focusing everyone's energies on your primary objectives for the coming year.
- Focus on process: A recent study by The Yankee Group found that one-third of network outages are caused by human error. In response, AMR Research reports a growing number of companies, such as 3M and Honeywell, have established a new executive position called chief process improvement officer to address workflow problems. Does your company have a process improvement champion?
- Standardize: In my last column, I suggested ways IT organizations could consolidate and standardize their IT hardware and software platforms. If you aren't among the organizations implementing IT standardization programs, you're missing a tremendous money-saving opportunity.
- Pick key vendors: Reduce the number of suppliers you rely on. This will put you in a position to establish strategic agreements to reduce technology costs and increase the quality of support you get.
- Carefully assess outsourcing: IT outsourcing has become inevitable. But with more than 50 percent of major outsourcing deals failing, IT organizations need to assess what and how they outsource. Start with small IT tasks in areas that aren't mission critical.
- Plan for uncertainty: Fortifying your business continuity and disaster-recovery plans is your best insurance policy for mitigating the direct and indirect costs of a traumatic event.