Two boring tasks that IT teams should prioritize to save time and money

Application rationalization and automation are backburner tasks that IT teams should prioritize to streamline operations, an expert says.

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Delaying IT modernization projects is one way to save money in these uncertain times, but that also can slow down digital transformation efforts. A better investment of time and effort is taking time to complete boring but important tasks that often get pushed down the priority list. John O’Shaughnessy, an infrastructure architect and senior consultant at Insight Express, has two recommendations for IT departments who want to boost efficiency and lower costs:

  • Application rationalization
  • Standardizing IT services

 O’Shaughnessy said these things should always be top of mind. 

“Even in the best of times, it’s good to free up time and money to be used elsewhere,” he said.

O’Shaughnessey said that one way to convince IT teams to take on these projects is to point out that freeing up time and money will create more opportunities to take on more interesting work.  

Here are the benefits of both tasks as well as some ideas on how to get the work done.

Application rationalization

IT departments use application rationalization to identify which applications across an organization should be kept, replaced, retired, or consolidated. CIOs often have to deal with numerous legacy applications after a merger or acquisition. Application rationalization (AR) also is helpful when companies have to comply with new regulatory or compliance requirements. Finally, cloud migration and big data projects are two other business forces that can make AR a good idea. 

O’Shaughnessy said application rationalization is becoming more popular with clients.

“They’re coming to us with 1,000 applications that are business critical and we help them figure out what they really need,” he said.

O’Shaughnessy said that one common example is payroll systems. If each corporate division has its own software for this task, it wastes a lot of time and effort. Consolidating on one platform for payroll is an important task that often never gets done.

“It’s not easy, it takes time, and it’s not sexy,” he said.

O’Shaughnessy said AR can save licensing costs, hardware, and labor. 

“One of the hidden things is all the labor,” he said. “You can free those people up to support other things.”

The basic steps of AR include:

  • Create a list of applications
  • Talk to the business owner
  • Talk to IT owners
  • Create a spreadsheet to identify candidates for consolidation

Standardizing services

Another effort that requires an investment of time and effort upfront that pays off in the long run is standardizing IT services. This requires changing the IT mindset away from seeing each new request from a business unit as a custom build.

“Given the general use cases for most organizations, 90% could be handled by something that isn’t custom,” he said. “You’ll have a custom category but the goal is for only 10% have to be handled as an exception.” 

A menu of IT services should include several specific tasks as well as small, medium, and large sizes. With this system, a business unit  would present a project and the IT team would look at the menu of services and say, “That fits the medium category.”

“With this approach, these requests can be preapproved by security, which saves a ton of time,” he said.

Automating common activities such as virtual machine deployments can avoid the time and expense of manually defining requirements for every request. The upfront investment is defining the services and what small, medium, and large iterations look like. 

Common tasks that can be standardized and automated include:

  • Service requests
  • Change requests
  • Ticketing system
  • Asset management

 Making this change requires a shift in mindset and a champion.  

“You start with asking the team if they would like to have 30% of time spent chasing tickets back in their day,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Find a measurable task that they don’t enjoy, and explain how AR and standardization will give them time back for more interesting work.” 
 
Given the new remote working conditions for many businesses, priorities for IT teams have shifted. Tasks that previously may not have been worth an investment of time are now higher on the priority list.

“If you’ve got 15 people spending all day helping remote users, it may be because processes were not defined correctly in the first place,” he said. “Now it’s worth the time to set up the processes when so many more people are using remote access.”

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