How much are we going to cut from the IT budget this year? Does ICT really add any business value? Why don’t we just outsource the lot so we do not have to bother with ICT, after all, it is an expensive overhead for the company.
Do any of the above sound familiar? Most likely the answer is yes. It is an unfortunate fact that in many organisations’ ICT is seen as a cost, not a benefit, and therefore dealt with as such. Those making these comments and decisions will normally have a limited understanding of ICT, and its complexities, it is probably fair to say that their only real contact with anybody from the ICT department is when something fails, which is not good for ICT.
These are not fictitious comments, they have been heard many times by the author during his career. Let’s not be coy they are very difficult to overcome, particularly when there is a need to increase the ICT spend to modernism. Everyone knows the above questions and comments should be made, but they need to be made from a position of knowledge and understanding, not, as is often the case, from third-party comments, or personal feelings when failure occurs. If we are honest anyone working in ICT must admit that it is a high cost service to deliver. Just think about all the elements that make up an ICT service. There are staff, networks, desktops, servers and associated licenses, software licenses, cloud subscriptions, personal computing devices such as laptops, phones, tablets, and all the subscription and licencing costs they incur. On top of this limited list, you then have third party support agreements, out of hours costs for upgrades and maintenance, consultancy costs, and the list just goes on and on. As the industry continues to move towards a subscription model for ICT services the cost will continue to rise year on year. None of this helps when organisations are looking to modernise find their budgets are being cut, staff skills are not being kept up to date and most of their systems cannot be integrated.
To overcome these comments, start with ensuring you understand all your costs for the whole service, including any costs that are picked up directly by other departments or teams, for example, specialist applications not supported by ICT. Share with department heads the true cost of delivering ICT to their service and be ready to demonstrate how changes to their processes will help to reduce costs. Understand where you are having failures and look for the root cause to develop an improvement plan. Become pro-active in finding opportunities where ICT can improve the customer experience for little or no cost, look for instances where departments can share data thereby reducing the number of data sets that need to be maintained. Demonstrate to the organisation that ICT takes cost control seriously through identifying cost savings that do not impact on service delivery. Make sure you publicise your achievements in saving costs to the organisation. By taking these simple steps you are raising the organisation’s awareness of ICT and its role. It puts you in the position of knowledge when someone makes the comments mentioned at the beginning.
David Jarrel – Strategic Business Technology Consultant