Stop Spending on IT, Start Investing in IT

As 2014 came to an end and 2015 rolled around, I took a personal look back at the way technology helped me and my customers. As the world and businesses prepare for another action packed year, where will the technology leaders guide us in 2015?

Throughout 2014 one common topic was present in many of my conversations with colleagues and customers. Companies struggle to find dollars to spend on innovation. Some might say that this is an obvious and common theme stemming from a weaker economy over the last few years. I would definitely agree, however I wanted to point it out and address it in my own way. I am not big on new year’s resolutions, however this year there is one professional commitment I am making when it comes to IT and when speaking with colleagues and customers. I will try to avoid the words “costs and spend” when discussing Information Technology.

Let’s put things into perspective. Today, in 2015 with the advent of voice command and intelligent apps we are capable of having an intelligent conversation with our smartphone. That being said, I truly believe that technology is no longer the barrier when it comes to innovating your business and getting ahead of the competition. Often I will come across slide decks or enterprise documentation which detail “IT Spend” and or “Operating Expenses”. I know maybe this is far fetched and not easy to put into practice, but in order to really see the benefits of technology in the enterprise, we need to shift the way we categorize and think about the costs associated with IT.

It’s all in the Mindset

I noticed over the last few weeks when talking to customers and colleagues, as I tried to shift my verbiage, I would often get a paused reply when I asked the following questions. How much do you invest in IT yearly? How much do you plan to invest next year? How much do you invest yearly to support your critical systems and applications? Do you invest in your IT staff and their education? If so, how much?

Why must we differentiate between OPEX and CAPEX? Technology is no longer something you “spend” on. IT is  no longer that ugly “cost center” that companies try to constantly shrink. It’s not like a night out for dinner with the family. It is not the weekend getaway to Las Vegas with your yearly bonus money. Technology runs our businesses and more and more, like it or not, runs our everyday lives. I know what I am suggesting may not be all that easy. I realize we will always have support and maintenance costs and routine operational costs which essentially “keeps the lights on”. Often these types of costs are what we know OPEX to be. What I am suggesting in this article is really a shift in mindset where every aspect of IT be considered valuable and necessary and truly added value to your business. When considered an essential part of your business doesn’t your case for funding become so much more simple?

Invest in Infrastructure

Infrastructure is your foundation. Invest in a solid foundation with a vendor or vendors who can offer what your business needs, but more importantly solutions that can scale. Remember that famous quote. You get what you pay for. You are in business to maximize profit and hopefully grow as an enterprise. Investing in the right IT infrastructure will allow you to scale. Stop patching and holding off. We all know budgets are tight and freeing up funding from the CFO is not easy. Often companies know what is “costs” them to purchase that new SAN, Server, Converged System, Software Solution, ERP, CRM etc. That is the easy part. The real question is do you know the cost to your business in the long run by not investing in new and or additional infrastructure?

Invest in Education

Is it me or do companies no longer support their IT staff in getting the right training and education? I found some enlightening and encouraging stats when it comes to companies training their staff. (Depicted in this pictograph below)

1CloudRoad Training

One disturbing fact I came across in this article below is that Canadian corporations on average take a backseat to training their employees. See the following link for more details.

click the link - Workers in Canada pay price as companies skimp on training, equipment.

I see dozens of customers who are suffocating when it comes to getting the proper use of their tools. Countless times I hear customers say we are using 10% of the software functionality? Education often gets left out or forgotten when purchasing technology today. IT Directors and even IT Staff take the education for granted. Often they will forego the education because of a lack of funding. I have seen companies purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars of software, but wait 3 months before getting authorization to take the fundamentals class which demonstrated them how to properly architect and install the solution.

click the link - Why companies need a smart training culture

Do warehousing facilities allow their forklift operators to operate a forklift without the required permit? Do heavy machine operators operate expensive equipment sometimes worth millions without the proper training? That would be crazy, right? Yet we have IT staff left hung out to dry after someone decides on purchasing a software solution or hardware component to optimize his or her IT organization. Again it’s easy to know what it “costs” to educate your IT staff”. The real question is; Do you know the “cost” of not investing in educating your staff.

I once came across the following quote. I do not recall where I read it, but it stuck! What happens if we train our staff and they end up leaving? What happens if we do not train them and they stay?”

Invest in a Trusted Advisor

Stop doing it alone. Chances are your IT staff does not have expertise in all areas of IT. Arrogance in IT can be dangerous. Call in the experts when you need to. Leverage their best practice experiences and learn from their knowledge after having been at various customers in similar situations. For you homeowners out there who like to DIY, can you honestly say you can do everything in your home in expert fashion? Yes Google and YouTube will likely show you how, but do you really want to take that chance in messing things up when they are really critical and you have invested a lot of money? Often IT organizations assume they can undertake everything on their own. Way too many times, I have heard, “We don’t hire external staff, nor do we contract out any work.” Sounds great to me, but do you have the right infrastructure and does your staff have the proper training? Speaking from experience, I have seen system upgrades fail in a big way because the right people were not engaged. I have seen systems ripped out, re-architected and re-installed because the setup was done by untrained staff. It’s a vicious circle when you try to go at it alone without the proper tools and resources.

Again it’s easy to know what it “costs” to hire the experts and trusted advisors. The real question is; Do you know the “cost” of not investing in the right people who have done it before you, got the bumps and bruises along the way and can shorten your implementation time. Find and call upon your trusted advisor and ask them to get you started in the right direction. Learn from them!

I know this article sounds like I’m asking for IT enterprises to “spend” or shall I say “invest” like never before. The reality is when your not investing in your business and your people, a competitor might be. For years we heard that IT enabled the business. Today IT literally is your business in some way shape or form. IT is not about spending, but with the proper investment, IT can be used as a strategic weapon against your competitors.

Happy 2015 and happy investing!