For many organizations, their Information Technology departments are almost an afterthought. They are the ones who enable the rest of the organization to do its work, but nobody thinks of them until something isn’t working right. The IT staff are the ones called when the Human Resources department cannot get to the new hire packet on the share drive or when the CEO cannot get their email. Every time something goes wrong IT is called in to fix it.
This is just how it has been since the early 1980’s when IT began to play a larger part in businesses of all sizes. Because the “customers” of the IT department are internal to the company, it has been viewed as simply a cost of doing business. It was a place where money goes in but does not seem to come back out for the organization. The end results of these situations were waste, duplication of efforts and / or systems and having old or unused systems sitting in the data center sucking up power, space and cooling. The costs to maintain the systems continued to go up. When it comes to planning the strategy for the company, IT has traditionally not been included.
Fortunately, that trend is changing. As it does, the IT department has become less of a cost center. It has, ever so slowly, become a haven for cost savings across an enterprise. So it begs the question of why? What is it about the inclusion or leadership of IT in the formulation of the corporate strategy that has caused this reversal?
While the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO) was first defined in the 1980’s, the elevation of the seat to an executive board position in recent years has began to get the IT department included in the strategy and planning meetings for the company. It has lead to much less waste, duplication, and the old or unused systems in the data centers have begun to be cleaned out.
Waste in the data center is caused by systems duplication. This has likely happened to organizations who have used outside vendors instead of relying on their own IT department to bring the updates and changes needed or wanted. System age also creates waste. When a system is kept online longer than it was designed to be, it can consume more power and require a higher degree of cooling than a modern replacement. The modernization of these systems can create not only a smoother operating process in the department which utilizes the system in question, but save on power and cooling.
Duplication can happen as departments seek to implement a needed project on their own. This could lead to multiple systems being purchased and implemented by 3rd party vendors. Many of these systems could likely be leveraged to meet the needs of multiple departments, but communication between the departments has not been what they should be and IT is cut out completely. These actions can create a “shadow” IT structure. It increases the complexity and reduces the reliability of the infrastructure as the bugs from including a new piece of tech into the network were found and ironed out. Each time there is an outage it costs the company money. The essential duplication of the IT department, until it is time to maintain these systems, can create more waste in the datacenter as there would be more systems to support.
Companies try to combat data center waste with Modernization. This can be done, fairly seamlessly, if the projects are properly planned and a complete set of requirements are gathered. It is likely the most critical of all the cost savings methods, mentioned here, to have the IT executive level leaders involved in. Despite the growing pains of modernization, in the end there is likely to be the biggest benefits throughout the enterprise by the effort. The opportunity for streamlining process and procedure will produce a savings company wide. The effort will also ensure that there are newer machines hosting applications in the datacenter, eating less power and cooling. The modernization effort will likely lead to the consolidation of systems into a single application as well. This should serve to increase communication between departments and speed outage troubleshooting by reducing the overall complexity of the network.
With the inclusion of the IT leaders in the executive level planning, the needs of each of the other departments of the company will be made known to IT as well. This is helpful because it can ensure that each departments needs are met in a timely manner and have the effect of that will be that each department will not purchase duplicate systems. Reducing the complexity of the overall corporate network will allow money in the IT budget for ensuring that the consumption of bandwidth does not outpace supply. It has also allowed for a greater amount of preventative maintenance to be done by the IT staff on the systems they support and lead to less frequent interruptions of service.