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12/15/2004
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SmartAdvice: Consider Purchasing Real-Time Collaboration Applications Through An ASP

Do enough initial planning to confirm that the model works with your business strategy and IT environment, The Advisory Council says. Also, eliminate unproductive behaviors to increase IT cost savings.

Question B: How can one reduce behaviors that are wasteful of IT resources?

Our advice: Companies have cut their operations over the past several years to reduce costs. Few companies, however, have attempted the disagreeable task of eradicating wasteful internal behaviors, even though the potential cost savings are substantial, particularly in IT.

A few counter-productive behaviors account for the majority of waste. Companies that concentrate on eliminating these can reap significant cost savings:

  • "Under the Table" Work (UTW) UTW is a widespread phenomenon, in which users bypass official channels and personally contact developers to slip in changes the next time a system undergoes maintenance. These requests never get prioritized against competing proposals, and often have dubious business value. At one client, the volume of UTW accounted for 50% of programmer effort. IT organizations can cut those requests by formal request management, and by rotating personnel to disrupt personal relationships that foster UTW.
  • Duplicate Activities In large enterprises, it's common to have multiple projects that overlap, or even work at cross-purposes. Eliminating duplicate efforts can produce substantial budget savings. Regular communication can unearth duplicate projects and spot opportunities to merge or coordinate projects. Management discipline is essential to force consolidation and terminate unnecessary efforts across lines of business.
  • Personal Preferences Even official requests can rob productivity when they're motivated by personal preferences. Moving fields around on a Web page may satisfy an individual's preference, but is it returning value? To ensure that business value is driving IT work requests, managers must assess each change request for its value to the enterprise. Some type of charge-back mechanism, no matter how rudimentary, enables business managers to evaluate how their subordinates are consuming IT services, and discourages frivolous requests.
  • Feature Proliferation Software developers also are guilty of wasteful behaviors when it comes to adding unnecessary features to software. Unnecessary software features greatly increase code complexity and drive up maintenance costs while adding little business value. Studies of code-control flow have shown that only a small portion of an average system is ever executed, while the extraneous code only complicates diagnostic and enhancement efforts. IT organizations must avoid adding "nice to have" features whose costs exceed their value.
  • Symptom-fixing Most production software will inevitably suffer failures. While this is to be expected, enterprises shouldn't accept having the same problems recur. Shortsightedness, combined with an unwillingness to expend effort, leads many IT organizations to apply patches that fix the symptoms, but not the underlying problem. Repeatedly fixing the same problems is pure waste. By investing in tools for root-cause analysis, and by instilling a "fix it once" attitude, IT organizations can avoid the repeat costs of software failures.
  • -- Ian Hayes


    Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.

    Ian Hayes, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 26 years experience in improving the business returns generated by IT investments. He helps companies focus on value-creating projects and services by better targeting IT investments, improving the effectiveness of IT execution, optimizing the sourcing of IT activities, and establishing measurement programs that tie IT performance to business value delivered. He is the author of three IT books, most recently "Just Enough Wireless Computing," and hundreds of articles, a popular speaker at conferences, and his clients include many of the world's top corporations.

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