Supporting enterprise infrastructure and applications can take a big chunk of your IT budget. Here are 10 ways to save money on enterprise systems in the near term.
1: Go "zombie" hunting
It sounds obvious to suggest shutting down unused systems, but most companies have an application or server that is happily humming along but hasn't been used in a meaningful way in months or more. Paradoxically, virtualization in the data center has allowed many more of these zombie systems, since it seems "free" to virtualize them first and ask questions later. But even virtualized infrastructure requires monitoring and maintenance. Find the zombies and retire them.
2: Outsource maintenance
Outsourcing has become a bit of a bad word in some IT circles, but with thin budgets and overworked staff, it often makes sense to outsource the maintenance of commodity portions of your IT infrastructure. Having your best IT staff performing rote tasks like applying patches and creating new users is probably not the best (or most cost effective) use of their time.
3: Put them in the cloud
Cloud effectively allows you to outsource whole slices of infrastructure, applications, and maintenance. While cloud deployments can be complex and a longer-term initiatives, in many cases your existing systems and applications may be available for cloud delivery and can be quickly migrated for cost savings.
4: Investigate your licensing
Pricing for software licensing routinely fluctuates, and with everything from software-as-a-service pricing to dozens of software startups, in many areas software has become a buyer's market. Check for vendor discounts or options to switch to a subscription model to reduce license costs on what you already own in the short term. In the longer term, look for alternative vendors or other options to reduce license counts.
5: Check out open source
A decade ago, open source was right up there with politics and religion as a topic you simply couldn't discuss without inflaming passions on all sides of the debate. Thankfully, open source has matured, and you no longer need to be for or against open source software to reap its benefits. Investigate where open source makes sense for your environment but be sure to consider the full costs of its use if your primary aim is to save money. Open source software may be "free," but support and maintenance still have a cost.
6: "Right- size" disaster recovery and security
Disaster recovery and security are both areas where there's a sweet spot between mitigating risk and overspending on risk avoidance. See where you fall on the spectrum. If you have 38 redundant data centers around the world, there may be some quick cost savings available by eliminating the excess -- and if you find yourself underprepared, an investment now could have massive payoffs later.
7: Enlist the business
I'm not an advocate of overly detailed TCO (total cost of ownership) calculations or convoluted chargeback schemes, but there's nothing wrong with letting your business counterparts know the cost of the systems they "own" and asking for their help in identifying ways to reduce those costs. Even if you don't have detailed numbers, identifying the "greatest hits" and asking whether a system is still used or could be consolidated is a great start.
8: Reduce support where appropriate
Suggesting that IT should provide less support might be anathema to customer service-oriented IT leaders. But in the absence of service levels and defined support requirements, many IT organizations will default to over-supporting an application. If you're staffing 24x7 help desks to support production systems when no one is working, or deploying expensive monitoring and recovery tools for noncritical applications, that's money that could be spent elsewhere without negatively affecting the business units you're supporting.
9: Trim your consulting staff
As someone who has spent the majority of his career in consulting, I've seen the good and bad of the industry. In many cases, consultants provide advice and fill skill gaps that save money. But in many other cases, they fill cubes for weeks and months on end, providing little value but billing at 2-5X what a full-time staffer would charge. If you're celebrating a consultant's third year with the company, or you're surrounded by dozens of people sporting Visitor badges and have no idea what they're doing, take the time to determine whether they're an appropriate expense.
10: Clip some coupons
For IT, the equivalent of coupon-clipping might be anything from "preferred supplier" agreements with vendors to waiting for quarter- and year-end to get the best possible deal from a vendor. Ruthlessly extracting every penny from a vendor may create an adversarial relationship in the long run. But if there are logical areas where you can combine multiple services or purchases from a single vendor or ask for preferential terms during key times of year, everyone wins. Something as simple as calling your top two or three vendors and asking them to identify some ways for you to generate savings could free some cash with little more effort than a phone call.
The rebirth of enterprise software (ZDNet special feature page)
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.