Hardware

Four ways to spend less but deliver more

With IT budget growth slowing and concerns about the economy dominating the press, CIOs can't afford—literally—to spend haphazardly. Tim Landgrave has some suggestions on how to stretch your budget.


Given the current state of the economy, many CIOs are faced with the dilemma of providing better products and services for their customers on a tighter budget.

Sometimes the answer is to spend more money on new technology to save more money in the long run. Other times, we need to encourage our companies to save money by better utilizing the technology they already have.

In this article, we’ll look at four ways that you can spend less but deliver more to your constituency.

Don’t upgrade your PCs—upgrade your systems
Most companies are just plain tired of the hardware- and software-upgrade treadmill. How many of your users actually need the new 1-GHz Pentium PC with 256 MB of RAM?

In fact, most users would prefer a slower PC that always worked to a faster PC that has to be “fixed” once a week. If you’re in a situation where you need to replace a large number of older PCs, try replacing them with a centrally managed Windows 2000 Server using Windows Terminal Services (WTS) and/or Citrix Metaframe, instead of buying a bunch of new PCs.

  Doing More with Less
    Do you need creative solutions for stretching your IT dollars and making wise purchasing decisions? Check out our collection of articles for advice on outsourcing, planning projects, working with vendors, and increasing efficiency.  
       

    Do you need creative solutions for stretching your IT dollars and making wise purchasing decisions? Check out our collection of articles for advice on outsourcing, planning projects, working with vendors, and increasing efficiency.  
       

By installing a central server to manage productivity applications and common business applications, you save not only on client hardware but also on the cost of managing, supporting, and upgrading the PC. If you compare the cost of buying, installing, supporting, and managing 15 PCs to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a WTS or Citrix solution, you’ll find the terminal solution to be very appealing. You can use the existing PCs as Windows Terminals using included client software.

If you want a tightly controlled, appliance-style reliability environment, then you can replace the PC with a solid-state terminal from any of several manufacturers (Wyse, Espirit, Boundless Technologies, etc.) and reuse the mouse, keyboard, and monitor.

Replace custom development with training
Over the last 18 months, many training providers have been burned by the corporate move away from training. Apparently, the commonly held belief was that training in the corporate environment simply prepared the employee for a better-paying job with stock options and a BMW at a flashy Internet start-up.

Now that the dotcomedy is over, national surveys show that employees have begun to place more value on job security and stability than on stock options. Risking it all for the dream of “being a millionaire before the age of 40” is much less alluring.

But employees still want to improve their skills and use them to add value to the organization. Take advantage of skilled internal IS staff to train end users in other departments on using available office applications to solve common problems. Pair savvy end users with their less-informed counterparts and point them toward internal applications that are already implemented but not being fully utilized.

Creative uses of internal programs like Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes can provide an “80 percent solution” to many common custom-development problems.

Use advertiser-supported Web solutions
Many companies have also developed an unfounded mistrust of Web services—based on the belief that employees will be less productive if they spend time surfing the Web.

Although I agree with this assertion in principle, the fact is that there are many useful and innovative Web-based and advertiser-supported products and systems that can add value to your company. You should look to the Web to help you solve application needs that either can’t be funded as custom-development projects or can’t be replicated with existing in-house tools.
During March, TechRepublic is running a series on how IT divisions can spend less but still fulfill their critical missions. Visit our briefing center to learn more.
Portals like MSN and Yahoo! have applications that can be used as readily in small departments as they can in small businesses. You can direct departmental users to set up discussion groups and forums using these services as an alternative to a high-end collaboration system. They have the added benefit of allowing your customers or partners to have access without having to compromise the security of your internal system. Other services, like Intranets.com and Trellix.com, also allow your users to create more elaborate collaboration and business-management systems.

Obviously, security is an issue when you’re putting corporate data on the Internet. If you choose to use these services, you should have a clear policy about what kinds of data are appropriate for these kinds of interactions.

Most corporations can save thousands of dollars a year if they simply recognize and promote the value of these services to their employees and focus less on the imagined importance of the vast majority of the collaborative data that the employees produce.

Investigate ASPs as a migration mechanism
Up until now, companies have avoided outsourcing applications to ASPs both for fear of loss of control and due to their perceived ability that they’ll get better results for less by handling things in-house. But when it comes to implementing a new technology, many companies will find an ASP to be an ideal partner. By using an ASP to migrate to a new technology, you can turn the capital cost of training, implementation, support, hardware, and licensing into a monthly expense.

Many ASPs offer access to Windows 2000, Office 2000, and Exchange 2000 in a hosted environment. Rather than doing the work yourself, work with an ASP to handle the migration from POP3, Lotus Notes, or Exchange 5.5 systems to a hosted implementation of the latest Windows 2000, Office 2000, and Exchange 2000 desktop.

Further, by using an ASP, you won’t have to immediately upgrade your desktop or server hardware. You’ll also have the choice of purchasing the licenses and having them hosted or just renting the licenses until you decide to move the upgrade back in-house.

You should negotiate a fixed cost and list of deliverables if and when you want to move all of your systems and data back to your site at the end of the contract. You’ll also want to check into having the ASP provide direct support for your end-users’ common office and collaboration activities so you can have your in-house IT staff handle more important line-of-business application and systems support. Finally, ask the ASP to spread out the up-front planning and setup fees over the life of the contract.
If outsourcing IT functions has saved you money, we’d like to hear how. E-mail us or post a comment below.

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