What do you do when your boss says you have to cut back your budget, but you still have to keep everything running smoothly? Shake your head in frustration? Reach for another Red Bull? While it seems impossible, there are ways to reduce budgets and still avoid the flurry of trouble tickets.
Oddly enough, this problem is not new. IT needs to upgrade and maintain the company infrastructure, and executives are always looking for ways to cut back. However, these pressures have intensified with the recent changes in the economy. According to a survey from Applied Research polling network administrators, 62 percent of respondents said their IT budgets will either remain stagnant or reduce in 2009. Sixty-six percent also said their IT staff will either stay the same or reduce. These statistics show companies are literally being forced to do more with less.
This presents a difficulty for IT departments already stretched thin. For example, one out of every two respondents from the survey said they actively manage less than 60 percent of their IT assets. This shows the difficulties these administrators have trying to stay on top of network problems. Often, their time is swallowed in trouble tickets and day-to-day management versus spending time on projects that matter to the business.
Secrets to Success
There are several things IT administrators can do to streamline their departments and maximize resources. The following is a list of tools and ideas for making the most of current budgets and existing resources.
- Process Automation allows a smaller management team to effectively handle a larger number of systems
- Intelligent Software Delivery allows companies to more accurately assess how many licenses they will need when purchasing software
- Endpoint Virtualization reduces downtime for application conflicts and provides a secure workspace when roaming
- Power Management Capabilities documents compliance with energy consumption policies and may provide rebates from local power companies
- Remote Diagnostic Tools reduces required IT travel time and travel budgets.
Process Automation: One of the biggest problems for organizations with tightening budgets is trying to manage an increasing number of machines without increasing the number of administrators. Process automation allows a smaller management team to effectively handle a larger number of systems.
According to the survey by Applied Research, 71 percent of respondents said the ability to automate tasks would benefit their schedule. By automating traditional IT tasks, the management process becomes much more reliable. For example, when deploying employee desktops, automation significantly decreases the amount of time spent manually configuring the computer.
Another benefit of process automation involves being able to automate how a business unit interacts with the IT department. For example, one of Symantec's customers streamlined how an employee requisitioned a cell phone. Under the previous system, employees would have to fill out several forms and email them to their boss for approval. The process became so convoluted that it took a couple days to complete. Once they implemented an automated workflow, the whole procedure took less than five minutes.
Intelligent Software Delivery: Typically, businesses do not have a firm grip on the software purchasing process. Rather than managing software licenses based on usage, IT tends to over purchase in order to ensure they have enough for the company. This provides them with a cushion of licenses, so that if they get audited, they still fall within compliance.
Unfortunately, this is a bad business practice. It's like buying a year's supply of milk at the grocery store, just in case everyone in the family wants to drink their share all at once. The result is a fridge full of milk that never gets opened. This is the same with excess software licenses. Companies are essentially throwing money away for products they never use.
By automating this process, companies can maintain accurate records of who has a piece of software on their system and who actually uses it. This allows companies to more accurately assess how many licenses they will need when purchasing software. Engineering software is a perfect example. It can be $100,000 per seat. If 10 licenses never get used during the year, that adds up to $1 million wasted.
Endpoint Virtualization: Virtualization has become a major topic for businesses, especially regarding the potential savings it provides. In the recent Applied Research survey, 74 percent of respondents are at least considering implementing endpoint virtualization. This technology has the potential to both decrease maintenance costs and increase user productivity.
- Reducing downtime from application conflicts: Virtualized applications are isolated both from other applications and the underlying operating system. As a result, the need for pre-deployment testing is eliminated, and the processes associated with application deployment, version changes and updates are significantly accelerated.
- Secure workspace roaming: In some industries, employees regularly work outside a company's physical walls. To work most effectively, employees need access to their desktop, their applications and their files and drives. Virtualization can satisfy this need by delivering a consistent, reliable and secure user experience regardless of the underlying platform or its location.
Power Management Capabilities: Recently, the concept of green IT has continued to receive media attention. As a result, many companies have implemented policies to help reduce energy consumption. By implementing power management capabilities, companies can document compliance with these policies internally. In addition, providing this data to their local utility company often results in rebates for the business.
Remote Diagnostic Tools: Managing systems at a different location can be difficult, especially for small- or medium-sized businesses. For these smaller companies, the IT staff is not only responsible for building the machines but maintaining them also. The difficulty occurs when a user calls and the IT staff has to drop what they are doing to physically go to the machine and diagnose the problem. This wastes both time and resources.
In the recent Applied Research survey, 42 percent of respondents said remote diagnostic tools would be either somewhat helpful or greatly helpful for managing IT effectively. Achieving this kind of management has two cost-saving benefits as well.
- Saving time: IT can diagnose and fix problems at their desks without requiring travel.
- Saving budget: IT does not need to worry about travel expenses or other issues that come into play when bringing IT onsite.
Ingenuity Saves the Day
By implementing the tools and ideas discussed in this article, IT managers can better ensure a victory for their IT infrastructure. These tools are designed to streamline efficiency and allow IT staff to do more with less. So, the next time your boss wants you to make budget cuts, you won't have to reach for a tissue.
About the Author
Christine Ewing has more than 12 years experience in IT software product management and marketing. She is currently the director of product marketing for the Endpoint Management group at Symantec Corp. In her role, Christine is responsible for identifying and analyzing market trends and working with the product management team to create market-driven products to help with the adoption of Symantec's endpoint management technologies to solve enterprise-level management needs. In addition to being a seasoned product marketing manager, Christine has held a number of product management roles inside of Symantec, where she delivered new technologies to the market and managed existing endpoint management products.