For the Love of Efficiency!

5 basic ways to increase IT efficiency, across your organization.

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What Do Love & Efficiency Have in Common?

The word “love” can mean very different things to different people – from how they express it to its various phases. When I asked IT executives and their peers what “efficiency” means to them, I got a very similar reaction – receiving a variety of inconsistent responses from all across the board.

One said that efficiency is about cost reduction or getting better pricing. Another indicated that it is all about consolidation. A third emphasized that it is about an improvement in security. The fourth viewed it according to functionality, with an aim in reducing technology overlap. The last related efficiency to quality.

Further, a common comment was that CIOs spend so much time focusing on efficiency that innovation withers. For the love of efficiency – can we get one all-encompassing, universal definition – especially within the organization itself?

Expected Role of CIO

One of the expected roles of the CIO is to make things more efficient by improving performance while reducing cost. This may conflict with the goals of other C-level executives, such as CFOs. For example, the CFO’s definition of efficiency may be to increase the top and/or bottom lines. How the CFO might do that is through forcing cuts in the IT department. So, how does the CIO get more efficient when he/she needs to adjust to less resources? Further, the CFO's focus may be to grow the company through investments and doesn’t realize the key part efficiency plays in growth. How can a CIO simultaneously foster efficiency while contributing to innovative strategic planning decisions? Can both directives peacefully co-exist?

What Does Efficiency Really Mean?

So then, what does it truly mean to be “efficient”? What does it mean to be energy efficient, cost efficient, or technologically efficient?

As we saw earlier, IT leaders vary greatly with their definitions, as do other key decision-makers. For example, business leaders might interpret efficiency to come from cutting edge technology that brings a competitive edge or makes the job easier, while IT sees it as related to cost cutting. Yet, in some other organizations IT might advocate the consolidation of legacy applications and data, or investment in infrastructure and resources. These are just some examples of how definitions vary, but it all leads to the same place – confusion, conflict, and sub-optimized performance.

5 Basic Ways to Increase Overall IT Efficiency, Organization-Wide

No. 1 – Synonymous Definition

Get the organization into the same mindset by adopting a common terminology when discussing business values, processes, policies, and procedures. A shared language promotes cooperation and enables thorough comparison across assets, projects, and organizations.

No. 2 – Know the Current State and Create a Roadmap

As a team, determine the current as-is state of the organization, IT-wise. Then, define how you’d like things to look in the future (the to-be). Analyze the gap between the start and end points, and then create a map to get you where you need to be. It is amazing how many businesses overlook this crucial step. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know how to get there? It starts with knowing your process and includes your people as the first element of the roadmap.

No. 3 – Set Expectations

Now that your business is reading from the same playbook, it’s time to establish milestones. What are some consensus-driven, realistic measures and metrics that can be built around your plan? For example, if your goal is to be energy efficient, define (as a group!) what that means, where are you today, where do you need to be, and what is your target. Then, set milestones at consistent intervals to check progress against the goals and make corrections as needed.

No. 4 – Put It in Writing

I know, when you’re in the middle of something, it feels like you’ll never forget the details. But, time passes and memories become fuzzy. Make sure you document, document, document. A great tool is an internal service-level agreement (SLA). This will also help your organization get and stay organized as change occurs, not to mention assess potential impacts and risks.

No. 5 – Re-Evaluate

Just like with any relationship, you’ve got to take a step back every so often and take stock. Where are you with your results? Are things going according to plan? Do things need to be tweaked? Refer to your initial documentation and check progress against the metrics. Are you more efficient? If not, why not?   If changes need to be made, follow these 5 steps again. View the process as an iterative cycle, not just a static line from A to B.

Conclusion

In business, the definition of efficiency, performance, and success varies from business to business and from executive to executive. What does it mean to your business? If you don’t know, isn’t it time you found out?

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