Train to Strain

Train to Strain

Next, focus on process. A variety of approaches for optimizing IT are delivering results. One of the most important: setting the bar high for IT staff. The best formula: a high-pressure, but not high-stress, environment, where staff members know that expectations are high but also mistakes are tolerated.

That's the mentality at McKee Foods Corp., a $970 million snack foods maker in Collegedale, Tenn. Says IS group manager Bo Smith, "Any place you walk in, our snacks are going to be cheaper than anybody else's. In the same way, the infrastructure we're going to provide has to be the lowest cost possible. That doesn't mean we're buying the cheapest technology. It means we're spending our technology dollars wisely."

It's important to standardize that infrastructure wherever possible. "Anything you can standardize, you can optimize those processes and minimize the cost," says Jeff Barlow, IT configuration manager for the retail group at Reliant Energy, a recently deregulated electricity provider in Houston. The business side may dislike the loss of localized control that comes with corporate standards, but it's really just a financial decision: If a group wants you to support, say, wireless BlackBerry PDAs instead of the corporate standard unwired Palms, offer them a pricing model that includes the full cost of support. Drive to make your infrastructure costs as predictable as possible through fixed-price offerings, with the most hard-nosed financial analyses possible. "That shifts it from a science fair conversation to a business conversation," says Nextel's LeFave.

Software development is one area where optimizing costs has been naggingly difficult. Yet any IT shop that develops in-house software has an opportunity to optimize its efforts by paying increased attention to quality. That means focusing relentlessly on building the right applications in the right way. "With quality, you do it right, or do it twice," says Bruce Woods, manager of software quality and training for Burlington, N.J.-based Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., the $2.5 billion clothing retailer. "And in this economy, you can't do it twice."

Ask Your Chief Architect:

  • How much could we save if all our applications and infrastructure were standardized?

    Ask Your CTO:

  • What is poor software development quality currently costing us?

    Ask Your It Architect:

  • Where could software tools potentially help us manage IT better?

    Can IT optimization software be useful? Only if you've already optimized IT.

  • This article was originally published on 09-01-2003
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