Facts are hazardous in this business, and I do my best to avoid them. Opinions are much safer.
Occasionally, though, something tangible belongs in the dialog, so here’s what an InfoWorld reader has to say. I’ve done a bit of editing to ensure anonymity. Otherwise, the text reads pretty much as I received it.
“I run IT for the Acme Corporation (yes, the one Wiley Coyote orders from). We’re semi-autonomous from the corporate DP department. DP wants to correct this condition. We don’t.
“My area manages 120 PCs, and have a total budget of $1.3 million, so there’s your $11K per PC. â€˜Grand total’ includes a $400K tithe to DP (they figure their costs and send a non-negotiable bill). Do I split it out as â€˜mainframe’ costs, â€˜network’ costs, â€˜PC service’ costs? No way. DP pretends to, but admits the numbers are largely made up.
“(I sometimes wonder how much is going to pay for their middle managers sitting around talking about â€˜architecting the meta-data in the Zachmann Framework’, but then, I’m sometimes overly pragmatic.)
“Even in my own area, how do I separate the costs of projects from the infrastructure to make the projects work? Not everybody really needs networking, yet everybody gets Banyan, TCP/IP, SQL*Net middleware, because it’s cheaper, smarter, and pro-active to make sure anybody can run anything.
“And besides, the Big Bosses don’t want to hear breakdowns into cost categories they don’t understand in the first place. They take the grand total IT budget including all salaries and divide by the number of seats.
“And now the real bottom line for the big cheese: HE DOESN’T CARE. He has a $100 million/year business to run, so I’m 1.5% of his budget. He’s being nice to give me about 3% of his time, and he only gives me that because my area is â€˜strategic’ and rapidly growing. As a line-business person, he’s much more concerned about the benefits than the costs, and he can see with his eyes closed that the benefits are much greater.
“It’s the full-time DP types who aren’t even connected to the business world who care about the costs. Every new machine, every new application, every new layer of middleware is another chore to them, another cost, another problem. They want to hold these down and speak much of simplification, homogenization, and limiting numbers of tool sets. Users agree in principle, but principles drop to the bottom of the priority list when a useful new application for their machine appears.
“I restrain the most enthusiastic end-users, but basically I’m on their side – even though their new uses are also new problems for me. I’m out in the business area and can also see the benefits.
“Sorry for the rant. I’m just trying point out the complexity. The accounting is the least interesting and important part.”
When you put your mental graphs on your mental wall, which of these measures do you chart: corporate value, IS costs, or your migraine level?
Look, I sympathize. Your headaches are my headaches. I feel your pain. (For that matter, my knee hurts, but that’s another subject.) Unfortunately, you’re paid to have headaches, and a reduction in your headache load doesn’t automatically translate to corporate value.
Reducing your costs doesn’t translate to corporate value either. If it did you’d resign immediately, reducing the cost of you to zero. You’d get rid of your headaches, too.
IS typically represents between 1% and 3% of a company’s total budget. Now be realistic here – how much of that can you really save by reducing your PC cost of ownership? The guess from here: even if you replace all your PCs with NCs and work really hard, your savings won’t amount to even a blip on the radar screen.
You have to decide where you’re going to focus your attention. You get much more leverage out of value creation than cost reduction. As reported last week, I once generated a 4,000% ROI with a single spreadsheet. Think of how much return you can generate by providing really great support for all of your company’s spreadsheet users.
And that’s just the tip of the old iceberg.