IT gets ready for the recovery

Don't just sit there -- now's the time to position your IT department to own the economic upturn when it comes around.

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3

Because they're specialized, they often create glitches that crash BMC's server clusters, forcing reboots. One of BMC's automation engineers figured out that it cost the company $5,000 every time a server needed rebooting. He then figured out how to create a catalog of standard environments that could be made available to developers within two hours.

"We'll still do custom work, but you'd be amazed how those [requests] melt away when they can get something in two hours," says Settle. Also melted away are the server crashes.

Consider -- or reconsider -- outsourcing

With revenues crushed at many companies, even IT managers who avoided outsourcing in the past are being forced to consider anew whether there are non-essential services they can outsource.

Applied Materials, a nanomanufacturing technology company, has used outsourcing to help it deal with the down cycles that hit the semiconductor industry like locusts, about once every seven years. It's developed flexible service-level agreements that allow it to add or reduce people quickly.

That does not mean it avoids internal layoffs, "but they're in the hundreds rather than the thousands," says Ron Kifer, Applied Materials group vice president and CIO. He says that on the plus side, as soon as things show signs of turning around, he can quickly instruct his outsourcers to add personnel, and start using them for projects in the works.

Kifer says IT's success in crafting such flexible outsourcing agreements has led other parts of the company to apply the same managed-services mantra.

For example, Applied Materials found it was employing financial analysts who were spending most of their time developing reports and aggregating data, tasks that could be done outside the firm, reducing costs by a third through lower headcount. The remaining financial analysts were then able to focus on more valuable work.

Even so, firms should be careful not to do blanket outsourcing, says Jim Milde, a veteran CIO who is now executive vice president of global services at Keane Inc., an IT services firm. "You never outsource your core customer-facing IT people who work with your business," he says. Instead, consider outsourcing business analysts, call centers and some business process functions.

Spend strategically, finance creatively

The University of Northern Florida (UNF) won't know its new IT budget until the state legislature signs off on the 2010 budget. But IT is already taking creative actions.

The school needed a communications infrastructure upgrade, says Stephen Lyon, the assistant director of network engineering at UNF, in Jacksonville, Fla. Lyon's group had surveyed students and found that they come to college bringing not just computers, but game consoles, various handhelds and netbooks, all of which need their own IP addresses.

Meanwhile, various departments at the university were examining new embedded systems to manage things like sprinkler systems, parking permit dispensers, lights and elevators. All of these help the university save money -- in fact, water is one of its big expenses, and monitoring should yield dramatic savings for the school -- but they too need bandwidth.

Lyon saw that multiple groups in the university had problems that could be solved with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet backbone and gigabit Ethernet to the desktop. It would also help IT do more with server virtualization, an important technology goal. Finally, he had his eye on 3Com equipment that would help IT respond more quickly to user requests.

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon