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CIO Perspective: How to Free up Money to Innovate

There is the cliché of “doing more with less.” Almost every company is asking their CIOs to do more with less budget. This is way annoying than it sounds, I agree, but surely it forces people to think creatively to free up resources. Throughout the article, I will discuss ways to free up resources to continue to be innovative in your IT department.

Start with your department and analyze your tools and services. Here and there you will find things that do not justify the costs, and even better, that have open source equivalents. Although I like open source and used Linux for many years, I would not go so far to switch your infrastructure to open source, but I will say that there are very strong open source alternatives to costly applications. As an example, my colleagues were considering Adobe Photoshop for basic image editing. I have asked a few questions and saw that GIMP would do. I pushed even further and now we are using Paint.net.

When you are analyzing your services, take your time to see if you are spending way too much resources on functions that can easily be outsourced. This can be on basic tasks such as telephony or can be some complex tasks such as servers. I had one client that has completely outsourced its telephony services. They were using landlines only. Now they utilized Lync and kept landline as backup. Another client of mine is opening up a freight forwarder company. He is starting from the ground up, entering the forwarding business. The company has just one line of business (LOB)  application, which is not available as an SaaS offering. I have implemented Office 365 Business Premium and utilized Azure for their LOB application. The company avoided costly data center investment, server installation, maintenance, electricity altogether and outsourced all the IT functions at once. Another client outsourced all of their WAN links. In all these scenarios, there is one common thing: if you analyze the situation carefully and consider the alternatives, you have more, and possibly more efficient (and economic) ways to do things.

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Digging your tools and services will bring more things to your attention. Legacy systems and forgotten servers are one of them. As a company, you are paying a lot of money to keep the legacy systems up and running and as a CIO you are paying a lot of money to monitor the servers which are forgotten. There are legacy systems which are hard to touch, we all know, but there are such systems that can easily be updated or consolidated. Today, there is no reason to keep a Windows 2003 Terminal Server running Office 2003. You may have some macros, you can just hire a VBA programmer to update them. In terms of server consolidation, it is better to consolidate applications into one server and upgrade that one server rather than keeping applications on a few low-end servers. I suggest checking each and every server to see what it is running. I have seen servers kept up just to run a 500 K – 1.5 MB exe applications.

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Once you are done with your department, arrange meetings with the business to understand where the company is heading to, what lies ahead and what services would most probably be required. This, in combination with the above, enables you to show how much of your IT budget is needed to keep up with the pace of the business and how much of your budget is kept for running the legacy systems. When you bring the numbers to the table, noone is caught off guard because you have laid the foundations for the investments: both to acquire new resources (system and personnel) and to retire/upgrade legacy systems.

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And finally, one bit of advice for every geek: you don’t need the latest, greatest, cutting-edge equipment. As a CIO, you don’t need the latest all-flash storage providing gazillions of IOPS. Define your strategy, know what lies ahead, plan what is required, plan the upgrade cycle and then evaluate the alternatives. Only then invite the vendors to present what they have.

Here is my take on freeing up resources for your IT department to continue innovation. What creative ways do you use to free up resources? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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