I work in IT. I’ve been using computers since 1979 when my school, Prairie Grove Elementary in Crystal Lake, Ill., purchased a Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80. My Dad purchased a VIC-20 a few years later, and then every new PC that came down the pike. So, when I say I understand how many IT departments love to get new “toys,” I truly do understand.
I tend to jump on new stuff fairly quickly, sometimes to my detriment. Part of the problem we face in IT project management is the speed of technological advances, and as a result, there are times that we’ve all pulled the trigger on purchasing things we thought we needed — only to discover later that we didn’t even turn the system on, much less use it. Early in my PM career, I told my boss that we needed $10,000 worth of equipment on one project, and I then found out that there was another company that had systems that did the same thing for half of that price tag. Ouch! Talk about buyers’ remorse!
So what’s the solution? Is it never buying anything without going through a horrendously long procurement process? Is it buying things just to keep up with the latest technology and hope that you actually use it? Yes, yes, I know, it’s not that black and white out there. However, I think that we can learn something from ITIL when it comes to capacity management and demand management that can help us. At the very least, these two areas can help us think a little bit about how to improve our purchasing in times of economic downturn or financial boom.
1. Capacity management is the marriage of business demand and IT demand.
Consider this situation. An IT manager is running metrics on the demand placed on the datacenter NAS. While doing some predictive analysis, she finds that at the current rate of utilization, the storage will be used up in six months. Being proactive, she raises the red flag to the CIO who authorizes purchasing another refrigerator-sized appliance. The storage rep is happy, the IT manager is happy, and then she finds out that the service being delivered by the organization using the storage is now able to operate on a third of the storage previously needed. There’s a half million-dollar piece of equipment that is not being used, and everyone wonders what went wrong. The answer is that IT didn’t talk to the business side.
Take the time that is necessary to look at your capacity needs and then run the numbers through an IT Steering Group (ITSG) that has the entire organization’s business plans and strategies on hand. Doing this will help you take what you discover in demand management and use it appropriately. Which brings us to point No. 2.
2. Demand management is a critical link in the supply chain.
By using patterns of business activity, user profiles, and the recommendations of the “in the trenches” IT support staff, we can bridge many of the gaps we have in communication, in regards to the actual needs of the organization. When it comes to projects, this can translate into doing benchmarking with similar IT projects that were successful, and also shared relatively close budgeting parameters. Look at the ebb and flow of finances as the project progressed. Did they have to do resource leveling? Did the lack of certain technology prevent them from accomplishing their targets and milestones? If so, you now are able to directly correlate something to your project that will justify the need for that purchase. No more “guesstimates.” Plus, technologies such virtualization and cloud computing enable you spin up machines and bring them down quickly at fairly inexpensive rates.
Those two points are just the beginning. The more you build the bridges between your IT and business services groups, the better you will get at avoiding buyers’ remorse. Trust me, I’m a recovering IT shopaholic. Until next time, cheers!