Can you afford not to invest in Best Practice?

Imagine the IT department in question is a rat's nest where inefficiencies in process, procedure and staffing are rife.

Times are tough, purse strings are tight, so CFOs play it safe when it comes to their IT spend. A cautious approach is typically adopted and only technical projects which are deemed 'essential' actually see the light of day until confidence in the market is restored.

This is all well and good, but problems can arise when examining just what many of them consider to be essential. Deciding whether to roll out 400 new PCs, switch to Windows 7 or implement Citrix is on the face of it a simple decision, in terms of Finance. Is it essential to keeping 'the wheels on' and are you doing it for the least cost possible? If the answer to both questions is yes, the project has a chance of getting off the ground. But what happens if the really essential aspects of IT aren’t so cut and dried?

Imagine the IT department in question is a rat’s nest where inefficiencies in process, procedure and staffing are rife. Many organisations will continue in this state while significant money is being needlessly lost, simply because solving these problems can often present itself in a form that historically would have been viewed as an unnecessary outlay.

Enter the term 'Best Practice'. The most widely recognised Best Practice framework is ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), which is acknowledged around the World to be the benchmark in Service Management Best Practice. An extremely useful tool for avoiding inefficiencies in money and time, it improves the performance of the IT department and the business as a whole.

But when organisations begin to squeeze IT expenditure, many regard it as a 'nice-to-have', and certainly not essential to their business. This might be because when times were good, many in IT undertook 'by-the-book' ITIL projects that painstakingly implemented each ITIL process, regardless of whether they were relevant to the business. Given that this was often performed with the help of an external 'ITIL' consultancy, this typically happened at considerable expense resulting in lots of 'nice-to-have' or worse, unnecessary process constraints and at massive expense. Quite justifiably, many Financial Directors now see Best Practice as something to be avoided when looking for business-critical expenditure only.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Now that the recession has rooted out those external consultancies slavishly advocating by-the-book ITIL implementations, the true return on investment of implementing Best Practice in a tailored, efficient manner should become clear and tangible.

It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that without some form of Best Practice, there can be no real maximisation of any technological improvements in IT, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. If companies focus on the cost of not implementing Best Practice in their everyday environment, the findings can be astonishing.

Take an upgrade to new software or hardware. While there is an initial outlay, it seems to present good value for money. In reality, if there is not a mature level of Change Management to deal with the deployment, there is little or no chance of the new technology presenting any real benefits.

With examples like this in mind Best Practice should no longer be seen as something for the IT Director to tick off a list, but rather as the essential framework to carry out services, changes and choices in the most efficient way possible. In fact, it could indeed be said that tailored, fit-for-business Best Practice should be the first implementation on the list of any Finance Director tasked with driving down the cost of IT and making real savings, whether it be during a recession or in times of growth.

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