Can IT Clean Up its Act?

Working on the proposals for high level IT strategy and cloud propositions, not to mention other more specific IT projects, we are often met with a big problem of what I call “inertia” – namely that IT is never seen to switch anything off.  A proposition to move, say, servers out of a data centre and onto the cloud, then replace them with IaaS services can be met with a serious disbelief at the Board level, simply because IT has traditionally been bad at explaining what it does and what it has done. The Board, perhaps rightly, believes the space will not be relieved, and the servers that were to be “moved” will actually never leave the building. Instead they will be reused, whether for expanding business or new opportunities. Real savings and efficiency opportunities can be missed because of this past reputation, and it is certainly one of the causes of the inertia in the market.

Anyone working in the industry can tell stories of data centre moves where servers have been found running something, but no one knows what, or why, or of machines sitting nearly idle because nobody is brave enough to pull the plug. We can all remember a time when promised decommissioning projects and the implementation of business applications have failed at the last hurdle to finally switch something off and remove it because of fear whether of operation or regulations. There are so many projects that after freeing up hardware, they just end up giving it to another new project, or to expand an old system – simply because IT and business governance controls overlooked the hard need to track realised benefits, or have the controls in place to prevent the grabbing of newly free capacity. Too many times freed up environments are plundered as a source of “free” hardware where in fact it is not “free” it is robbing the benefits of another project.   We should not then be surprised then, when the CIO approaches the board with a proposal to free up costs and transfer assets that is rejected, not because it is not possible, or seen as too risky, but simply because the wider management team are wary of whether the move out to the cloud will just result in even more costs, as existing capacity and costs will not really be transferred.

So, even if the savings opportunities out there are very real and achievable, as I have mentioned time and again in the this blog, IT simply needs to get better at the financials. That means putting in place the necessary efforts and processes to really track benefits and govern the (often wayward) prcoesses of reallocation of assets in the IT infrastructure.   IT departments need to show that, with discipline, the projected benefits can, and will, really be realised. Perhaps with a cleaner act, better discipline and processes in place that intertia to act will be overcome.