Forrester offers four ways to IT to stay lean

Forrester Research Inc. convened an analyst panel this week to chat about the current state of IT in these troubled economic times. ComputerWorld Canada listened in on the first session, “Creating A Leaner IT,” to learn about how IT departments can streamline their operations and make do during a downturn.

1) Spend money to make money . . .

Universal cuts have an unfortunate effect on the business,” said principal analyst Galen Schreck. “Let’s say you wanted to virtualize to reduce costs and risks, but you’ve already cut too many people to start that new project. Scaling back to the bare essentials can mean diminishing service levels, so you need at least a part of IT left to take care of new projects.”

Said principal analyst Alex Peters: “You don’t want to budget ideas out of existence.”

You’ll have to have buy-in from the brass on this one, said. “Educating the business side is very important,” Peters said.

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Dealing with the economic meltdown

2) …But keep track of your cash.

“Make it someone’s responsibility to track these initiatives so that you can be sure spending and effort is going to the right place,” said senior analyst Dave West.

Keeping track of your applications is also key when money is tight, vice-president and principal analyst Marc Cecere. “We see a lot of application organization problems, especially in mid-size shops. They have too many applications and too few people to manage them,” he said.

Also unwise is not keeping an eye on staff assignments, said Cecere. Staff often invest a lot of time in ambitious new projects, only to have to abandon them to manage an old rickety application or process that’s going nowhere. “It’s wasteful,” he said.

3) Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate.

It’s important to start from the bottom up, according to Peters. He said, “At that level, you can very quickly judge where to make changes that will affect all levels, all the way up to the top. People often want you to start with the application stack, but it will cost you a lot more effort than starting from the boxes.”

4) Be flexible

The economy could change at any moment, whether for the good or the bad. Peters recommends being able to roll with whatever comes your way. But over-planning can work against you. He said, “If you’re planning too far ahead, it can be a waste of time. Something different will happen in three months and you’ll have to start all over.”

So, while planning is important, it’s doubly important to have the ability to roll with the punches.

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