Ten tips to cut costs and boost productivity in tough times

By adopting smart tech practices and abandoning antiquated ones, firms can save a huge chunk of their operating costs in these difficult times, experts say.

Business decision makers today aren’t looking to IT for new products, according to Paul Swinwood, president of the Ottawa-based Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).  Rather “[they are] saying to IT: Show us how to be productive,” said Swinwood said in a recent Webcast that was part of the recently concluded Microsoft-sponsored Ignite Your Career Series: Industry Insights and Trends.

The business value of IT in a down economy is a theme emphasized by other experts as well.

IT workers should focus on how their activities benefit their company’s customers, said Joel Semeniuk, founder of ImagiNET Resources Corp., a Winnipeg-based Mircosoft.Net consulting firm.

When implementing cost-cutting measures, another analyst urges IT staff to first go after the “low-hanging fruit.” This could mean cutting printing and software licensing costs, or adopting virtualization technology, said Robert Garmaise, vice-president of research at Info-Tech research Group an analyst firm in London, Ont. Such strategies , he said, could help businesses shave 10 – 75 per cent off their tech expenditure.

Here are 10 top cost-cutting, productivity-boosting strategies offered by Garmaise.

1. Cut output costs

You can achieve a quick 20 to 30 per cent savings by reducing printer, scanner, fax machine and copier expenses, he says.

Determine how much your company is spending on these operations. Work with business users to figure out which printing, scanning, faxing and copying tasks are unnecessary.

Map out a strategy to reduce output without negatively affecting business, and identify vendors who can offer the best deals on machines and tools that help your company save.

2. Turn to third parties

Do you feel you’re paying too much on software maintenance and support?

Info-Tech recommends replacing your application vendor with a third-party provider that can deliver the same or better service levels at a deeper discount.  Just doing this could cut app maintenance and support costs by as much as 50 per cent.

3. Optimize your help desk

Is your IT team overtaxed putting out corporate brush fires? Perhaps your firm’s tech team — saddled with help desk tasks — hasn’t the time for more value-added work.

Determine your optimal help desk state and build a realistic service delivery plan, says Garmaise.  This includes setting guidelines on what the team should and shouldn’t respond to, and creating procedures appropriate to the importance of various issues.

Also investigate the benefits of outsourcing help desk tasks, he says.

4. Cut small branch office costs

Small branch offices can be costly and challenging to manage from an IT standpoint. Reduce cash outflow and improve IT operations by considering the following:

  • Investigate Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity: Is your WAN provider delivering the traffic quality your business needs? Are configuration and troubleshooting costs eating into profits? Can you sacrifice service level agreement timeframes and guarantees to achieve lower cost?
  • Use a Secure Socket Layer Virtual Private Network (SSL VPN)  This technology can help staff and partners communicate and collaborate on tasks securely over the Internet.

SSL VPN systems increase productivity and lower costs by enabling employees to interact with customers and partners, while avoiding travel. They increase self-service capability for customers, and extend remote access to business data and applications.

  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a server-centric computing model that allows systems administrators to host and centrally manage virtual desktop machines in the data centre. This enables administrators to install apps on user machines, without physically visiting each machine, thereby cutting administrative and desktop support costs. 

5. Find telecom savings

Conduct an inventory of your company’s telecom structure, use and invoices. Determine what you think you have, what you actually need, and what you are being charged for by your carrier. Look to:

  • Cut lines no longer in use or needed
  • Consolidate remote operation services
  • Reduce bandwidth consumption, while maintaining  acceptable processing speeds

6. Reduce application retirement costs

Determining if and when to retire an application may be difficult, but a smart decision in this regard could greatly reduce licensing fees and improve productivity.

Businesses should look at costs associated with corrective and preventive maintenance and options for disposing applications earmarked for retirement.

7. Consider outsourcing network monitoring

Monitoring the network helps IT departments respond to heightened availability needs and performance standards.

However, consider the resource load required to efficiently support the task. Perhaps an outside provider may be better equipped and cheaper.

8. Use software asset management  

Software asset management (SAM) tools could generate savings of 30 per cent or more on software licensing and administration.

These products help your company ensure ongoing license compliance, shrink license bloat, and control assets better.

9. Investigate open source software

The quality of open source office applications available today has improved considerably.  Cash-conscious firms should consider open source alternatives to expensive proprietary software licensing agreements.

10. Virtualization

You could achieve 40 to 75 per cent one-time savings and up to 50 per cent ongoing savings by implementing the right virtualization program for your company.

To assess your company’s best fit with virtualization first determine which areas of your operations need the technology.

Then consult experts, review virtualization pitfalls and successes of peers and competitors.

Make a shortlist of vendors offering the most appropriate system and conduct limited on-premise tests to find which system works best for you.


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