In part 1 of this series I asked the question, "Are you running IT like it's your business?" Then I highlighted five barriers for preventing IT leaders from being able to transform their IT shop into a well oiled, cost effective machine?
- Resistance to change
- Lack of resources (time, money, and human capital)
- Lack of tools
- Lack of metrics
- Lack of process
If you owned your own construction company, would you equip your workers with hammers or nail guns? Many IT shops create budgets that focus mainly on business demands and infrastructure but forget about funding tools and initiatives that increase the staff's overall productivity.
Human labor makes up a large part of IT budgets. So why not invest in tools to allow your IT professionals to deploy faster, provide more visibility into operational efficiencies, provide better access to information, and automate administrative and repetitive tasks?
If you don't want IT to be viewed as a cost center, then look for ways to make your resources more efficient. There are vendors like Mercury, Rational, and many others that provide a suite of tools from project management, to development, to testing, to change management. These tools allow you to enter requirements, automatically generate test cases, and provide visibility into requirements traceability. These can be time consuming and error prone tasks without the use of tools. If you are a .Net shop, investing in MSDN, Visual Studio Team System, and the new Silverlight product provide tremendous productivity gains. If you are developing with Java, Ruby on Rails, or a variety of other open source technologies there are a ton of great development tools and they are free! But don't stop there. There are tools for configuration management, source control, defect tracking, modeling, and the list goes on and on. If you have home grown systems to perform these duties then you don't understand the term Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Why build and maintain these types of applications when there are companies and open source communities that have massive amounts of resources and R&D efforts to continually improve these products while ensuring they meet standards and keep abreast of modern technologies? Although some of these tools can be expensive, nothing is more expensive then having IT professionals performing tasks that can be automated by these suite of tools. And let's not forget testing automation. If done right, regression testing can be fully automated and executed as part of your daily build process. How many times has development delivered a build to SQA only to have it fail simple regression tests? I have seen several days wasted as build after build is failed by SQA and returned to development. With automation, all builds should have already passed regression testing before even showing up on SQA's door step.
Investing in PPM (project portfolio management) and problem management tools gives IT professionals the ability to proactively manage projects and production support. By having visibility into the progress of projects and the health of production systems, IT can prevent issues from occurring or at least address the issues early before they become catastrophic.
Access to information is an extremely valuable tool. This is often known as Knowledge Management. Tools such as portals, collaboration, wikis, blogs, and knowledge bases, are great tools for sharing best practices, training materials, standards, and various other forms of documentation. Investing in quality search technologies can be a huge productivity enhancer. Here is an article that claims that employees performing ineffective searches and wasting time looking for information can cost companies up to 10% in salary expenses. Ten percent of your staff's salary can easily justify the costs of search technology. Some enterprise portals, like BEA's Aqualogic UI, are implementing many of the new Web 2.0 features like tagging and ranking which are an extremely effective way to present relative information to IT professionals.
And finally, how many times have you seen your development staff rapidly develop and test some new feature only to have it take days or weeks to labor through a whole host of manual processes and procedures in an effort to deploy the functionality. All of these processes should be automated through work flow, including the approvals and audit trail. The work flow provides visibility into the status of the request and can automatically deploy the features if designed correctly.
In summary, when looking at tools think about the TCO. The more effective your staff is, the lower the cost of deployment becomes. In addition, by increasing speed to market you also create more throughput. More throughput means more business value. One last note. If you are still scared of using open source for enterprise applications, there is no better place to test open source's value at low risk then with development tools.
In part 4 of this series I will discuss metrics. Stay tuned.