5 Steps to Buckle Your IT Belt for a Bumpy Ride


This article was originally published on CIO.com.

IT leaders should confront economic volatility by putting plans in place to optimize technology investments with a strategic focus on realignment and flexibility.

When it comes to predicting the economic future, there are a lot of mixed signals right now, but one thing remains clear: Recession or no recession, cost-cutting initiatives are always a smart idea, particularly given today’s inflation rates. Economic concerns are increasing the pressures on IT to do more with less. Consider that 92% of IT leaders are concerned about budgets and headcount in today’s economic climate, according to a recent Vanson Bourne study. Fiduciary responsibility is essential today given that corporate belt-tightening measures are in sharp contrast with IT growth rates:

  • Cloud, mobile, and telecom investments are expected to increase by an average of 10-12% over the next couple of years, showing the importance of responsible spending habits.
  • Mobile device counts (78%) and usage (83%) are expected to increase; and with greater use comes more management responsibilities, making it even more important that organizations approach IT investments with sustainability in mind.
  • Now is not the time for hasty decisions, but rather the moment to ensure that digital transformation investments of the past three years continue to afford positive online experiences for near- and long-term business success.

Calm volatility with an IT optimization mindset

IT leaders should confront economic volatility by putting plans in place to optimize technology investments with a strategic focus on realignment and flexibility. With pricing volatility and inflation expected to continue, companies have an opportunity—and fiduciary responsibility—to right-size their IT infrastructure, services, and assets to flex as needed, riding the ups and downs of today’s market. By shifting to an IT optimization mindset, and following these five steps, companies will be positioned to navigate tentative terrain with sure footing.

Step 1: Get clear sight into the cloud for cost optimization

In the beginning, companies migrated to the cloud for simplicity and cost efficiencies, but over time those benefits can lose their luster. For many companies, the cloud has grown complex and costly as they rely on more infrastructure and application services — especially as trends in remote work have taken hold with cloud collaboration and employees located in different corners of the globe. The number of cloud licenses and providers has ballooned, making it ever more difficult for IT to harness the horse as it shot out of the gate. From mid-market to global enterprises, multi-cloud environments are growing rapidly in size, scope, complexity, costs, and security risks.

Having the ability to wrap your head and arms around a company’s complete cloud environment – bringing data out of the shadows and into the light – is a critical next step in making the most of cloud spending, resource allocation, and optimized investments. With the forecast for cloud resources expected to continue to grow, evaluating cloud spending and automating cloud cost optimization makes sense in uncertain times.

3 Ways to Cut Cloud Costs

  1. Consolidate redundant applications acquired as a result of panic-stricken pandemic purchases.
  2. Engage long-term discounting strategies to reduce the cost of multi-year contracts.
  3. Understand how and when to use pausing features to ensure you’re paying for cloud infrastructure services only when you need them.

Step 2: Reassess shifting IT landscapes for smarter utilization

After accelerated innovation and evolving business models, it’s not uncommon for IT priorities to have changed every year. Company locations are different. The way employees connect to information is different, and with employees moving back and forth for hybrid work and traveling more, communication needs have changed. All the while, pricing has shifted too. Now is the time to reassess IT assets, taking a closer look at what technology is still needed, what resources may be going unused, and the latest trends in IT service pricing.

Shifts in technology usage create new opportunities in IT optimization:

  • Pandemic purchases have left companies with duplicative applications and services. Companies that consolidate tools can reduce Shadow IT security risks and save money, using the savings to upgrade non-traditional applications to enterprise-level tools.
  • Video conferencing impacts network bandwidth and data usage. Many companies are revisiting their strategies to upgrade to cloud unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and working to modernize and optimize network infrastructure in response.
  • Travel is back, meaning it may be time to revisit international calling plans or any imposed surcharges regarding communications. 
  • Connectivity changes across the hybrid workplace have more companies relying on broadband public internet services, 5G fixed wireless, and software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), which drives complexity with more vendors and internet services to manage. Now is the time to reevaluate how IT manages a growing number of vendors, as the benefits of innovation can quickly be outweighed by the burdens of management.

Shifts in service pricing create cost-cutting opportunities:

  • Companies have more options for domestic internet services, and the decrease in price has leveled off making it a good time to lock in low rates.
  • Cloud pricing remains flat. But cloud waste is common, and companies are spending more than they anticipated. It’s time to evaluate unused licenses and investigate spikes in usage to understand when the cloud is burning a hole in your pocket.
  • UCaaS prices have declined as competition has heated up, making now a good time to sign a cloud communications contract.
  • The price of private connectivity (MPLS) services has decreased over the past two years, allowing companies to achieve savings.

Step 3: Rethink mobile strategies to reduce risk and inefficiencies

Mobile and wireless are becoming the experiential engine of every organization. Especially in today’s hybrid workplace, employees are relying ever more on their mobile devices and business apps to get their jobs done. Getting a handle on an organization’s hand-held devices – making sure they are connected for security and performance – is key to any organization’s success, as ransomware and data breaches can cost companies millions of dollars.

Avoiding ransomware and security attacks is even more important in times of uncertainty, which is just one key reason why 81% of IT leaders are rethinking their mobile ownership strategies. While having employees bring their own devices (BYOD) to work was a great solution to keep business running during the pandemic, the approach may now be riskier than it’s worth, especially when it comes to security.

And security isn’t the only reason mobile needs a rethink.

Growing dependence on mobile devices is taking a sizeable toll on IT resources — to the tune of one-third (1/3) of IT team productivity and cost. And with overall staff churn rates at 17%, managing a mobile fleet is challenging for companies of all sizes, particularly when 65% of companies are completely reliant on mobile devices and the average company has thousands of devices (laptops, phones, tablets, wearables, others) in use.

A smarter use of resources may be to outsource mobile device management. Mobility management services and unified endpoint management are becoming a trend as companies recognize the need for tighter mobile security with fewer IT resources to administer it across the entire lifecycle of devices — at deployment, during system and application updates, and during employee on-and off-boarding.

Step 4: Embrace holistic IT automation to accelerate operations

AI is helping companies boost network performance, accelerate security defenses, and make smarter use of their investments, and now is the time for IT leaders to reinvent business processes through automation. With IT professionals on average losing more than one day a week to manual tasks, more than eight in 10 (85%) agree that eliminating manual processes would allow IT to be more flexible in the wake of changing times. 

Just as comprehensive data across the IT ecosystem can inform smarter operational outcomes, accelerating workflows can have a cumulative effect. In a shifting business landscape fraught with complexity, uncertainty, and cost constraints, an automated platform that unites the network, security, cloud, and mobile endpoints can provide the complete and clear view needed to chart a smarter course. AI-based automation has proven successful for IT teams in:

  • Reducing the amount of time and effort needed to identify and mitigate security threats
  • Improving network performance, predicting outages, and preventing connectivity issues
  • Automating processes for IT asset management and service administration, thus diminishing the time it takes to responsibly manage sprawling tools and providers

Step 5: Lean on partners but understand outsourcing best practices

Leveraging more outsourced services is one of the top ways organizations reported that they would respond if there was a recession, so external vendor support is only likely to become even more important as the pressures to do more with fewer increases.

Striking the right balance is key. Outsource too much of the IT work and you can lose responsiveness at times when flexibility is needed most. Insource too much and you will never have time to get to strategic work that can be critical during times of change. Finding the balance point requires understanding the talents on your team, the cost or value of the work being performed, as well as when and where the day-to-day grind is pulling the internal team away from top priorities. Co-managed services help create balance, as can an inquiry into providers to understand their capabilities for providing additional professional services.  

Above all else, the ability to pull an instant, customized report for the CFO and CEO can mean the difference between a strategic cost cut and simply striking through a mathematical line that may cause unintended consequences. Untangling the cacophony of IT service providers is essential in assessing the true costs and opportunities associated with running today’s tech-enabled businesses. Only then can IT leaders share contextualized information helping the C-suite make informed decisions, right-size technology investments, and unleash innovation in uncertain times.

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