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IT tier-level support, chargebacks, called wasteful

Gartner offers 16 ways IT can improve operations in lean times

October 19, 2011 02:42 PM ET

Computerworld - ORLANDO -- With their budgets seeing little increase, IT managers are being urged by Gartner Inc. to re-examine many of their long-followed IT practices and then, quite simply, kill them.

Among the practices that can be axed is one in which escalating support calls up multiple tiers until they reach the developers who built the app, which is largely a waste of development time, according to Gartner analysts at the research firm's Symposium/ITxpo here.

Does ending tier support make sense? It might, said Jonathan Silber, chief enterprise architect at a company he didn't want to identify.

Occasionally, Silber said, you run into something that is "fundamentally broken" and a technician needs to be brought in to fix it, "but that should be a much more rare experience," he said.

What happens now is that if the help desk doesn't have a pre-programmed response, the problem "gets forwarded out to everybody from my architecture team to every programmer," Silber said.

Changing that process would mean shifting more dollars to a support organization instead of burying that cost as part of the salary of a senior developer, but "it becomes a specific line item that is harder to justify," said Silber. Help desk calls have been rising generally.

Another change recommended by Gartner analyst Ken McGee is eliminating chargebacks, which amounts to billing business users for the IT resources they consume. Managing chargebacks takes up a significant amount of IT time for tracking what amounts to a small percentage of company revenue, he said.

An IT manager who agreed with McGee's recommendation is Ron Adkison, manager of information and database services at a financial services firm.

"You're not making any money at it and you're wasting resources," said Adkison, of chargebacks. "I don't see any benefit in it," he said.

During his presentation, McGee listed 16 ideas for trimming costs and getting a better idea of how money is being spent by an IT organization.

A conference theme of "creative destruction," has been adopted, in part, because of a belief that a second recession is imminent.

"Let's kill stuff here," said McGee, who believes the impending economic period will give IT managers an opportunity to make significant changes.

Here are McGee's recommendations:

1. Measure IT projects against the CEO's priorities and see if they match.

2. Look at how the company makes money and compare that to the projects that IT is working on, and terminate support of projects that will not improve the income statement.

3. Abandon CIO priorities that do not directly support the CEO's priorities. The CEO's priorities are predominately revenue-related, where CIO priorities are mostly cost-related. An example might be a CIO who is focused on improving technical infrastructure, versus a CEO who has set a priority of being more open and collaborative with customers. McGee's advice is "to end those discrepancies."

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