Seven Strategies to Reduce IT Costs and Improve ROI – Part 2

In my first post, I discussed three strategies IT teams should think about when considering ways to extend their IT budgets and also floated the idea that sometimes IT teams should think about bringing in outside expertise to offer a fresh perspective and new ideas.

Here, I’d like to outline four additional ideas and put a little more meat on the bones of when to think about bringing in outside experts. First, the four additional strategies:

4. Get a handle on telephony charges – Well-meaning employees sometimes take telephone service into their own hands.  They either use their personal cell phones in place of the company’s landline for convenience, or use Skype to save money. Unfortunately, both of these strategies takes the control of cost and security out of the hands of the IT team.

5. Look at wireless alternatives – Is there a company-wide policy for wireless charges, or does every employee have their own plan and expect the company to pay?  Given the sheer volume of data files that people download these days and the move from wireless carriers away from “all you can eat” plans, these are important questions to ask and answer.

6. Think again about how your employees work – An increasing number of employees work out of the office, either at client sites, on the road or at home.  A lot of companies accommodate this through groupware solutions such as SharePoint.  Yet groupware costs can quickly add up.  There are numerous solutions from Dropbox to Google docs that provide many groupware features for significantly reduced, or no, costs.  However, IT teams have to vet the security of groupware services to ensure they protect not just their company’s IP, but the IP of customers, partners and others that may reside on the company’s servers.

7. How often do you update your security and where are security solutions located? – In addition to firewalls and endpoint protection, IT teams increasingly need to think about developing their own anti-malware strategy, given the proliferation of threats.  For example, many companies are conducting their own malware analysis to determine the source, what files it attacks, how it attacks them and when – giving IT teams the  information with which they can update their security infrastructure.

In my last post, I’d mentioned the idea of bringing in outside expertise to offer IT teams new ideas and a fresh perspective on IT-related issues.  To get this most from outside experts, it’s important to pick the right partner.  Here are five questions that are important to ask when interviewing these outside firms:

–          What exactly is your proposed scope of work, timetable and projected pricetag?

–          What expertise do you have with organizations and issues similar to mine?

–          Will the team that has worked with these similar organizations and similar issues be the team that works with me?

–          Can you provide references from organizations that I can contact directly?

–          How will you project manage your activities given that I have limited time to oversee your team’s efforts?

There will, of course be additional project-specific questions to ask, but if you don’t receive firm answers that satisfy you, you should consider other sources for assistance.

In Vector’s next post, my colleague Curtis Paradzick would like to discuss several types of “rogue” activity that can compromise network performance and security, as well as offer a few tips to prevent this.

Happy holidays to all!

Seven Strategies to Reduce IT Costs and Improve ROI – Part 1

For more than 20 years, Vector has worked closely with medium-sized business, healthcare facilities, businesses and government entities, and schools and universities to develop networking and telecommunications systems that support their missions.

As part of our efforts to assist decision makers at these organizations in keeping their people connected to critical information, we are starting a blog.  We will share our thoughts on new technologies, the latest trends, success stories and general commentary and we are eager to hear the thoughts of our current clients and customers, partners, and others involved in IT decisions.

To get the discussion kicked off, I wanted to share strategies we’ve both developed and observed that can assist organizations in maintaining or even improving network performance while reducing cost, thereby improving the ROI of the IT investment.  Given that most IT teams we talk to aren’t anticipating budget increases in 2012, this remains a very relevant topic!

I will discuss three ideas today and more in a future post.  Please add to the conversation with your ideas or feedback to these!

1. Know what you’re spending – Start by getting a handle on what you’re spending now.  Look everywhere, starting with invoices from IT-related vendors to employee expense reports.  You might be surprised what you find.  Look especially at contracts that are in place and think about potentially purchasing contract management software to help you manage these.  One scenario we’ve seen:  an executive or administrator signs a contract and then subsequently leaves the company.  Accounting continues to pay the bill, but no one can find the contract, figure out the thinking behind the signing of it, or determine what benefit the service is providing.

2. Integrate printers – Printers, scanners and all-in-one devices often proliferate in an office faster than any other hardware.  Review who needs to print, scan and fax – how much and when.  Never forget that the $120 all-in-one device with inkjet technology seems cheap, until you factor in that the cost per page to print is exponentially higher than with a more expensive laser printer.   Also remember that many of these devices now connect wirelessly.  This can expose both the content and the network to hacking.

3. Take a new look at internet access – Do you really need that T-1 line?  Would two bonded DSL lines or a fractional T-1 line provide similar service and redundancy for a lot less money?  Does it make sense to bundle internet access with telephony and other services?  Often signing longer-term contracts provides better deals as well.

In my next post, I will cover four additional strategies and also get into when IT teams might consider bringing in outside expertise to gain new ideas and an independent perspective.

I look forward to feedback and comments.