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Small Business IT: The First Step in Making IT Costs More Predictable

Posted by Sean Kline

turbotek boston tunnelDo you know your company’s true IT costs? I met some employees of a company who were concerned that their IT vendor took a formulaic approach to support that was not adequate enough to resolve all of their IT problems. This approach is at the core of an issue most companies face with IT management: If an IT vendor takes a formulaic "ingredients vs. results" orientation with IT management, that approach will be less able to adapt to unique situations that are bound to arise. IT vendors are more successful when they take an approach of managing to results, in which the formula changes based on what is required to meet the company’s needs.

Another employee I talked to recently had concerns about unpredictable IT costs. It reminds me of an analogy I have used about the Big Dig in Boston. Because the roadways in Boston were allowed to grow organically, the Big Dig project was a reactive approach to mismanaged growth. There was no proper planning, and when project coordinators wanted to make a major change, it became incredibly costly. They compared the changes to performing open-heart surgery on someone who was still working. The same is true when planning IT costs, which can spiral out of control without proper planning throughout the life of the company.

Proper planning is the key to making your IT costs more predictable and manageable.

When you have an IT process that is out of alignment, and you’re not investing enough to manage it properly, you tend to become more reactive than proactive. You find that you are constantly putting bandages on things, constantly reacting to unexpected problems, and you don’t have enough time to deal with the root causes of the issues. You then have a cascade of effects, resulting in multiple calls to vendors or additional demands placed on company employees. These effects result in unexpected increases in bills or salaries associated with IT maintenance.

Without proper strategic planning and budgeting, unexpected surprises occur with IT managment. When you have something unplanned that you have to deal with, you will find that you are spending tons of money trying to maintain your IT infrastructure.

You can minimize surprises by developing a planning process that allows you to evaluate IT infrastructure and implementation from a best-practices perspective.

Determine where you are out of alignment in terms of best-practices, evaluate how inconsistencies can impact your business and what you should do about it, and you can then get ahead of the curve, identifying ways to prevent potential problems from happening to begin with. Unintended downtime is a result of improperly maintained systems. Performance degradation results when your network is not properly maintained; you may have rogue programs and a variety of other unexpected issues.

Other unexpected difficulties may include: security incidents that occur because your security infrastructure is not properly managed or maintained; lost opportunity costs that occur when you could be driving sales, but you’re not able to effectively do so because you are not taking full advantage of your infrastructure, your data and your assets; and spending money on items such as backup, antivirus or anti-spam items, without placing equal emphasis on the skill sets necessary to maintain the new infrastructure. Additional costs can be measured in lost productivity resulting from downtime.

I have presented a handful of reasons why IT costs can unexpectedly fluctuate. When you don't have a properly planned system that withstands change – and things do change, whether because you want to make a change or necessity demands change – it can become incredibly painful to undo the damage to your infrastructure and the disruption to your business. To restore your IT infrastructure and your business to the way you want them, you must sacrifice money and productivity. To prevent such a sacrifice and maintain your IT process, you must implement a results-oriented process that deals with all of the technology issues that may arise across infrastructure, support and strategy.

Key Takeaways:

  • It's important to understand true IT costs
  • Proper planning helps make IT costs more predictable
  • Evaluate IT from a best-practices standpoint
  • Invest in your IT infrastructure

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Topics: true IT costs, IT best practices, predicting IT costs, IT infrastructure