You’ve heard the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
There are many areas in business where that advice may hold true, but your IT assets are not one of them.
IT assets—including hardware, software and data—start deteriorating the day they are acquired. Yet the tendency today is to purchase, install, and then promptly forget about a technology. Few people or companies realize that when it comes to IT assets, maintaining status quo carries great risks.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for significant spending, but rather for a sensible continuous improvement program. Like any preventative maintenance actions, the program will actually save you a lot more money than it will cost.
The Consequences of Status Quo
There is so much talk about the management of risk that comes with the execution of IT initiatives, but there isn’t much published on the risk of status quo. To appreciate the magnitude of risk this carries, consider these consequences:
Productivity loss. If business innovation is not supported by technology innovation, the organization will have to try to do new things with old technology. Although they will find a way, the struggle to get there and the solution (read: workaround) will likely be far from optimal.
Portfolio deterioration. To accommodate changes in the business process, the business will find Band-Aid solutions. These one-off applications, databases and servers not only create a support nightmare, but often pose a security threat.
Increased spending. It is well documented that when a person skips a meal, they overcompensate in subsequent meals. It is the same with technology spending. If you don’t stay steady, you will overspend later. Just think of that last painful ERP implementation. Because the organization had ignored the system for years, a decent system ultimately had to be fully re-implemented.
If this is not enough of an argument, then maybe you’ll have some sympathy for the CIO who thinks status quo is fine. That CIO is working hard to prevent the place from falling apart, but can’t seem to keep up. It is not a matter of if, but when that CIO will be replaced.
Making Strategic Innovation Investments
I’m not pushing you to adopt each of the latest high-tech solutions that caught your eye at the last conference you attended. (In fact, I’d urge you to resist recommending an unexpected technology solution to top management unless it addresses a particular concern or request.)
Instead, put an ongoing plan in place for exploring IT solutions. To ensure that IT doesn’t stay dormant next year, it is important to be proactive all year. After all, when budget season comes, it is all about cutting 10 percent out of the IT budget. Then it is too late to talk about the risk of status quo.
It is not a lot of work, but it is a continuous effort to generate ideas for moving forward. To get the support of management even during the budget season, try the following techniques:
- Look for ways to support your organization’s strategic initiatives with technology. This way you are aligning IT investment to the overall strategy.
- Organize a governance body around the largest technology assets to generate ideas. This ensures that you have political clout behind the proposed actions.
- Capture grassroots ideas for improvement opportunities. These ideas are often good, and sometimes brilliant.
No matter where you look for ideas, do me a favor and don’t look for “best practices” or what your competitors are doing. All of this is useless to you. Because technology advances so rapidly these days, and because your organization’s needs are unique, you’ll find that little to none of that information is actually useful.
It Is Broke, and It Does Need Fixing
Remember, your IT assets don’t qualify as “ain’t broke.” They do need to be fixed. The risks associated with status quo are too high. For you and your organization to prosper, it is important to ensure that the IT technologies are in place that will support your business’ growth and innovation.