A talented Finance Professional I know has a mantra that I’ve boiled down to “It’s not just a race, it’s a sprint”. Her assertion is that in business we can’t just mozy along and expect to do great things. We’ve got to work for it – and we have to be willing to work hard and fast.
I can’t help but recognize how apropos that principle is to IT.
Maintaining the status quo, in many fields, can be a good thing! It can provide continuity, consistency, and simplicity.
In IT, however, that’s not quite the case. In the field of Information Technology – including subfields such as infrastructure, networking, architecture, data, etc. – the old adage “stagnation is death” most definitely applies.
IT Leaders must be agile, adaptive, and decisive. In IT, a failure to act can mean the loss of competitive advantage and the risk of losing market share, and eventually becoming obsolete.
Planning for Success
Being blasé about your company’s use of technology will only accelerate your decent into obsolescence. Therefore, preventing stagnation first requires intent.
You then need to plan for your technological competitive edge. You can do this by completing the following steps:
- Describe your current state
- Enumerate your options
- Make a choice
- Budget accordingly
IT Asset Budgeting
I’ve seen it recommended elsewhere, and I’ll include it here, that your overall budget can be broken down into the following four categories:
- Maintaining/Retiring Obsolete Technologies (10%) – this includes the cost of recycling old hardware and the tasks associated with preparing for new hardware, such as migrating data off of obsolete systems.
- Standard Technologies (60%) – these are the standard systems which make your company “go”; your operating systems, printers, network infrastructure, servers, etc.
- Competitive-edge Technologies (20%) – these are technologies (generally industry-specific) that can give you a competitive edge over your competition. For example, if you’re at a university, these technologies could include your student portal that facilitates online classes, or new methods of lesson delivery, and professor/student interactions. If you’re at a pharmacy, these technologies can include your pharmacy management software, robotic dispensing equipment, etc.
- Experimental Technologies (10%) – these are new and exciting technologies that your company may be able to leverage to gain competitive edge. This represents a ‘weeding out’ phase as you work to determine which new technologies provide the highest return on investment
It may seem obvious, but your assets will trickle down over time. As you select and fully implement experimental technologies, they can then be categorized as “competitive edge technologies”. As the your competitors react to, and match your “competitive edge technologies” they become “standard”. Finally, as you explore and implement new “experimental’ and “competitive edge” technologies, they will eventually become obsolete.
One may argue that this isn’t necessarily the case with SaaS and Cloud-based technologies. I would only partially agree. That is a market with it’s own ebbs and flows, and a provider that fits perfectly with your company today, may not be such a perfect fit a few years down the line.
If “stagnation is death” then “movement is life”. It is vital that we, as IT Leaders, maintain our motivation to continuously grow, adapt, and improve. We need to plan for the eventual obsolesce of today’s technologies, and diligently keep our eyes on the future.
Remember, it’s not just a race, it’s a sprint.