Harvard Business Review’s Seven Truths about Information Technology Costs

The Harvard Business Review recently ran a short one-page article on The Truths About IT Costs that should be a must-read for every business executive. While they don’t capture everything you need to know about IT, every point they cover is a point you need to be aware of.

  1. Enhancements Don’t Necessarily Deliver Results Commensurate with their Costs
    Consider how much you pay for ERP upgrades, factoring in the upgrade costs and maintenance costs, relative to how much of the new functionality you end up using and compute the resultant impact on productivity and cost savings, especially compared to the acquisition of a new SaaS e-Sourcing or e-Procurement solution that automates a business function that’s currently manual and you’ll quickly realize this.
  2. Projects Are Often Too Big and Take Too Long
    Many projects have pages of “must have” features and functions that are nothing more than requests that came from a single stakeholder who will rarely even use the software. Create a short-list of essential functions that will be required daily and augment it until 90% to 95% of regular daily activity is accounted for. Stop. That’s the initial implementation.
  3. Previously Purchased Applications and Infrastructure Technology are Underutilized
    Invest six figures in your redundant WebsShere environment? Then you certainly don’t need WebLogic! Tell your vendor you want the WebSphere version or you’ll find another solution. Same goes for your hardware. Use what you have. Need a separate environment? No problem – use virtualization.
  4. Project Failure Rates are Too High
    That’s why you have to keep the initial implementation small … and why subsequent phases must also be small as well. The process should also be agile, with regular feedback and testing. That way you don’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars having a third party build a custom solution that you can’t use because you only find out six months later during implementation that it can’t be integrated with your current platform without another three months and three hundred thousand worth of work.
  5. Technical Teams Often Do Not Have Sufficient Incentive to Deliver High Quality Applications
    Especially at your average chop shop. Just because the third party developer and integrator is charging you $150 an hour for a resource, doesn’t mean the resource is worth anywhere near that amount. It might actually be a junior consultant only two years out of school who gets a flat salary of 60K a year and who doesn’t see a penny of the performance bonus the firm collects if they deliver on-time.
  6. Managers Don’t Know Enough About the Systems that Support Their Areas
    As a result, your tech department is probably overwhelmed with “helpless” help desk costs that needlessly drain costly resources.
  7. IT is Too Risk Averse
    Many old-school IT managers still live by the “No one ever got fired for buying IBM, HP, or Microsoft”, even when those solutions cost three times as much as competitive solutions. There are huge cost savings opportunities just waiting to be found if you go thin client wherever possible (as it costs less and requires fewer costly hardware refresh cycles), discontinue costly (and often unnecessary) maintenance agreements, and embrace open source platforms and applications where it makes sense to do so.