Are you incentivizing the wrong IT behaviors?

Author:
Doug Theis

Most of the C-Suite professionals I meet with these days have moved away from the old “IT as a cost center” talk and more towards “IT as a business enabler” thinking.

But C-Suite and IT leaders’ actions don’t always match up with words.

From my perspective, here are the most common forms of incentivizing the wrong IT behaviors that limit operational improvements and therefore limit increases in business success.

Investing too much FTE time on managing IT hardware infrastructure

In the past, IT has used hardware and software solutions in-house to meet business requirements of keeping IT costs down.  But what percentage of your IT infrastructure team’s time is spent on researching, selecting, implementing, training, maintaining, troubleshooting and sunsetting IT infrastructure components?  If you are going to realistically evaluate the time spent, make sure you include servers, storage, core networking, telecommunications, operating systems, data protection, and security tooling at a minimum.  Once you arrive at a percentage, consider how reclaiming that FTE time might help the business by refocusing your IT team on your applications, end users, and better customer experiences.  Switching IT staff from an IT infrastructure focus to a business/applications/user focus is the most common way to drive innovation in the IT department and improve business operations.

Focusing on technologies instead of managing service levels

Businesses have problems that IT can solve. Historically, part of the “fun” of being an IT infrastructure professional was researching, selecting and implementing new hardware and software platforms to solve these business problems.  The dirty little secret of this approach is that the amount of time spent on researching, selecting, and implementing is only part of the time spent.  Training, maintaining, upgrading, and troubleshooting these technologies takes even more time.  Costs are much higher, but they are hidden in staff time.  It’s extremely rare for an IT team to properly account for the time spent throughout the lifecycle of a technology.

In my experience, time estimates on choosing and implementing technologies are understated by a factor of four.  Estimates on time spent training, maintaining, upgrading, and troubleshooting a single technology are often understated by even more.  One of the biggest reasons for the widespread adoption of cloud and managed services is so IT can focus on providing strategic business-focused services rather than managing set of technologies.  The simplest example:  Does the business really care which data protection technology IT is using, or do they just want the systems to be back up and running in fifteen minutes or less in the event of a disaster?

False financial comparisons on services versus build-it-yourself

As companies perform due diligence to make sure IT budgets are met, they often compare the cost of purchasing, owning and supporting IT hardware and software to the cost of cloud and managed services. But these comparisons are often incomplete. What do they leave out? Time and opportunity cost.  Yes, the FTE time is a sunk cost, but the opportunity cost of the staff time described in section 1 can be much more significant  than the cost of time alone.  Rather than focusing on tactical “keep the lights on” work, IT teams should be incentivized to focus on strategic projects that drive better customer experiences, application transformations, and business process automation.  IaaS and data center providers like Expedient allow companies to outsource this tactical workload and free up the time for IT staff to drive higher impact projects.

    How can you help the C-Suite leverage IT as an enabler of better business operations?  I recommend scheduling a discussion with business stakeholders and IT leaders about key applications and service expectations. When IT clearly understands what the business needs from its technology, it’s much easier to build and deliver the service levels and outcomes that the business is seeking.

    Need some examples on how things go when moving to cloud and managed services works well?  Watch this video to see how SaaS provider Prodigo Solutions transformed its business processes with the help of Expedient.

    Need some help on facilitating the discussion with the business?  Contact me.  We can help.

    Doug Theis is the Director of Market Strategy in Expedient’s Indianapolis market focused on engaging with and improving the regional IT community through planning, sponsoring and attending community events, facilitating IT-focused continuing education opportunities, and sharing strategies, tactics, and research to help IT professionals stay abreast of best practices and industry trends. Follow Doug on Twitter.

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