Milking a budget

Getting more bang for the buck is the goal of every network executive. But who has time to investigate every new technology or entertain all the vendors, service providers and consultants who come knocking?

Don’t worry – we’ve done the legwork for you. We’ve interviewed dozens of your peers, talked to experts from the consulting world and come up with a combination of practical advice and real-world experiences that should help in your cost-cutting quest.

While the tactics and tools may vary, there are five main strategies or principles that guide the most successful budget stretchers. They are:

— Consolidate. Three-quarters of a typical LAN budget and nearly half of a typical WAN budget are devoured by staff costs, according to Gartner Group. Anything you can consolidate — call centres, servers, management consoles — should result in staff savings.

— Standardise. Complexity is your enemy. Simplicity is your friend. Try to impose a single enterprise-wide standard for e-mail platforms, LAN protocols, network hardware and remote access systems. Standardisation makes everything easier, including training, maintenance and upgrades. And let’s not forget the volume discounts you can extract from vendors.

— Automate. If there’s a tool out there that can automate a process you’re currently doing manually, anything from configuring IP addresses to distributing software to keeping an eye out for network outages, it’s a safe bet that such a tool will save you money.

— Negotiate. You’re trained as a technologist, not as a lawyer, but it’s vital that you drive a hard bargain with vendors. That means never automatically re-upping at the end of a contract, no matter how wonderful the product and support have been. Put together a request for proposal (RFP), solicit bids from multiple vendors, drive a hard bargain, demand specific performance levels and include penalties for non-compliance.

— Delegate. Sometimes it’s hard to give up control of a part of your network to an outsider, but if you’re facing staff, skill or time shortages, it might be easier and less expensive to go with an outsourcer who specialises in providing the services that you’re looking for.

Of course, these budget stretching techniques are not mutually exclusive. Most executives will use a combination of approaches to get their money to work harder for them.