Thriving on a Smaller Budget: Tips for IT Success

How can you make IT run smoothly with less money while you continue to resolve the daily glitches and problems that must be addressed?

by Christine Ewing

Any IT person who’s had the experience knows the feeling. Your boss tells you that your budget is being cut but everything is still expected to run smoothly. It's time to pull a rabbit out of your hat.

Interestingly, many people in IT are facing this dilemma. The flailing economy has done everything to IT budgets except raise them, making it even more crucial to have a smooth, dependable infrastructure. Problems with IT set back businesses and make it that much harder to operate efficiently. The resulting question for IT professionals is, “How can I make our IT work as well (or better) with less money?”

Solving this riddle is made harder by the fact that most IT people already have their hands full. About half the IT managers who responded to a recent survey from Applied Research of network administrators said they actively manage less than two-thirds of their IT assets. Obviously, they have plenty to keep them busy. The real predicament, then, is not just how to make IT run smoothly with less money, but how to do so while you continue to resolve the daily glitches and problems that must be addressed.

Tips for Success

IT administrators can do several things to streamline their departments and maximize resources. The following are some tools and ideas for making the most of current budgets and available resources.

Tip #1: Simplify Automated Management

One of the hardest problems for organizations with tightening budgets is managing more machines with fewer administrators. Process automation allows a smaller management team to effectively handle a larger number of systems.

In the survey by Applied Research, 71 percent of respondents said automating tasks would benefit their workload. By automating traditional IT tasks, the management process becomes much more reliable. For example, when deploying employee desktops, automation enables IT to decrease the amount of time spent manually configuring the computer.

Another benefit of process automation is being able to automate how a business unit interacts with IT. For example, one of Symantec’s customers streamlined how an employee requisitioned a cell phone. The previous system required employees to fill out multiple forms and e-mail them to their supervisor for approval. The process became so complex that it took a couple of days to complete. Once they switched to an automated workflow, the whole procedure took less than five minutes.

Tip #2: Streamline Software Usage

Typically, businesses are not very effective with the software purchasing process. Instead of managing software licenses based on usage, IT usually over purchases in order to make certain they have enough for the company. This provides a cushion of licenses that ensures compliance should they be audited. In doing so, however, companies are essentially throwing money away for products they never use instead of carefully allocating resources.

Automating this process helps companies maintain accurate records of which employees have a piece of software on their systems and which employees actually use it. This allows companies to more accurately determine the number of licenses they need when purchasing software. Engineering software is a great example. For one seat, a company can pay $100,000. If 10 licenses never get used during the year, the company has wasted $1 million.

Tip #3: Utilize Endpoint Virtualization

Virtualization has become a major topic in the business world, especially regarding its potential to save an enterprise money. In the recent Applied Research survey, 74 percent of respondents are at least considering the implementation of endpoint virtualization. This technology can both decrease maintenance costs and increase productivity.

Two key benefits to virtualization are reduced downtime from application conflicts and secured workspace roaming.

  • Virtualized applications are isolated both from other applications and the underlying operating system. As a result, the need for pre-deployment testing is eliminated, and the processes associated with application deployment, version changes, and updates are significantly accelerated, greatly reducing downtime.
  • In some industries, employees regularly work outside a company’s physical walls. To work most effectively, employees need access to their desktop, their applications, and their files and drives. Virtualization can satisfy this need by delivering a consistent, reliable, and secure user experience regardless of the underlying platform or its location.

Tip #4: Reduce Energy Consumption

Recently, the concept of green IT has received significant media attention. As a result, many companies have implemented policies to reduce energy consumption. Power management capabilities enable companies to document compliance with these policies internally. Providing this data to their local utility company often results in rebates.

Tip #5: Incorporate Remote Diagnostic Tools

Managing systems at different locations can be complicated, especially for small- or midsize businesses. For these smaller companies, the IT staff is in charge of building the machines and in maintaining them. When a problem occurs, the IT staff has to drop everything to physically go to the machine to diagnose the problem. This is a terrible waste of both time and resources.

In the previously mentioned survey, 42 percent of respondents said remote diagnostic tools would be either somewhat helpful or greatly helpful in managing IT effectively. This kind of management saves both money and time. When considering budget reductions, travel expenses or other issues don’t come into play when IT can solve problems from their own desks. The time requirements are also reduced because IT can diagnose and fix problems without traveling.

Breathe Easy

Fortunately for IT, keeping a smooth IT environment with reduced budgets does not require any tricks with smoke and mirrors. The tips and ideas in this article can help IT professionals maximize their resources and provide a smooth, functional infrastructure that will continue to effectively support the company. Less money and more efficiency isn’t magic -- it is possible.

Christine Ewing has more than 12 years of experience in IT software product management and marketing. She is the director of product marketing for the Endpoint Management group at Symantec Corp. and works with product management teams to create products that help enterprises adopt Symantec’s endpoint management technologies. Christine has held several product management positions at Symantec, where she delivered new technologies and managed existing endpoint management products. You can contact the author at Christine_ewing@symantec.com.