4 Steps to Safe Cost Cutting

4 Steps to Safe Cost Cutting

It is no secret that many industries and market’s bottom line profits are being walloped by the COVID-19 impacts. The impact is real. You have been asked to cut a substantial portion of the IT budget and fast. Your challenge is to deliver the reductions needed while maintaining services. Join me in exploring an approach to tackling the challenge as safely as possible.  
Let us begin. 


1. Start with a solid understanding of the current state of IT Spend:  How much and in what places 

Let me share an analogy…You need surgery! Can you imagine allowing a surgeon to start cutting without diagnostic tests identifying the root of your health issue? As scary as that concept might be, you must perform the same diagnostics before you start a cost-cutting initiative.
How do you know where to cut unless you know the costs and drivers?
I am not talking about the need for a Total Cost of Ownership analysis. I am advocating that you understand your spending from a high level. It is most useful to sort spend into three different views: 

IT Spend by Strategic Category 

Most IT costs sit in the Run category of spend (average of 65-70% percent of the total budget). Run costs are typically committed contract costs. Unfortunately, we see these costs rising each year unless there has been a continuous program to control run costs. The Grow category focuses on enhancing business processes with new IT-based capabilities, whereas Transform is in support of new business activities. 
The first opportunity here is in the creation of a center of excellence comprised of IT, Finance, and Key business operational representatives tasked with ensuring the continuous improvement in the efficiency of IT services. The need for business representation is strategic. It is also an excellent opportunity to solicit their input into the reduction of Run service delivery expectations.  
More important, it is an excellent time to educate the business on the operational impact of IT investment decisions. Without this education and attention, trailing maintenance costs increase the run costs of the business by 15-20% year over year as illustrated in the chart below.   

IT Spend by Cost Component

These days, the most substantial portion of IT costs for most organizations is associated with internal staff and outsourcing. Improving cost-effectiveness and enabling cost reductions will require a detailed look at services by category and identification of duplication of services while exploring alternative delivery models.  

The opportunity here is to look deep into each cost component to understand the opportunities to renegotiate, extend, or eliminate contracts or services. This is also the time to take a deep look, often for the first time, at the organizational design and staff skills inventory in preparation of a likely call to reduce staff or headcount.  

Do you know who your essential team members are?  

IT Spend by Technology Domain  

IT spending is spread across a combination of infrastructure, application, service desk, and IT management workload areas.
Experience shows us that there are real opportunities for significant cost savings and service improvements in each of these areas. Areas of cost reduction opportunities might include renegotiating service contracts, extending service life, consolidating data centers, or reducing the number of applications.  

2. Next, look for opportunities to cut costs.   

  • Quick cost-saving “WINS”: Scrutinize in-flight or planned Grow or Transform initiatives to eliminate or defer anything that does not contribute to immediate cost reductions or profit margin increase.
  • One-time hard savings (current spending or next budget cycle}: Reduce fixed costs by a set amount in the present or future budget cycle/quarter.  
  • Recurring hard savings (current spending or next budget cycle): Reduce variable costs regularly, proportionate to volume, in the present, or next budget cycle/quarter.
  • Reduced future costs: Savings on what would have been spent during out years. For example, renegotiating a three to five-year maintenance contract reduces savings in out years, which should be captured and tracked, but don’t have the same cash-flow impact as savings in the current or next budget cycle.
  • Expense deferral: Taking an action that will result in an expense being due and payable at a future date, rather than during the current time period. Many cost optimization efforts make the mistake of not differentiating between putting off a cost into the future and making structural changes that will reduce the long-term run rate. 
  • Staff/Headcount reductions: Reduction in force is never easy and often results in significant lost productivity. Analyze your skills inventory against critical functions and talk in detail. Without this level of scrutiny, staff reductions represent the highest risk of cutting to the bone. It is essential to have a clear understanding of the functions of every team member.
 As you list your opportunities for cost cutting, keep in mind that not all cost cutting efforts are helpful. There is a downside to attempting the wrong kind of cuts. Some can be quite dangerous to the intended outcome as well as IT’s reputation. Here are a few to consider:

3. Finally, inform and negotiate cost-cutting targets

Most often, IT cost reduction goals are dictated by the CEO or CFO with directives such as “Cut your total cost by X%.” This is understood. At the same time, the CIO will demonstrate managerial courage in clearly articulating and informing the business of both the positive and negative impact of that directive.  When opportunities and risks are articulated in clear business terms, the CIO can earn the right to negotiate the goal in partnership with the business leadership.  

4. Last, execute against the plan  

Seriously, this is hard stuff. By putting the extra effort in the analysis, you will be better positioned to manage costs and be prepared for the next time. There is always a next time. 
Feel free to contact us with questions we left unanswered or if you could use help in getting started.   
Stay Safe, 
Mary Patry and Martha Hein

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

IT Executives Are Facing Unprecedented Times

IT Executives Are Facing Unprecedented Times

IT Executives share a lot in common with the best athletes. They play on a team that is always working hard to gain success after success. They’re motivated by the need to improve and broaden their skills and play more consistently. At the same time, they face pressure from all sides, even during regular times. The added weight of supporting remote working requirements caused by COVID-19 may feel overwhelming. Overnight their focus pivoted from strategic thinking as the CIO to tactical needs thinking as the CCO – Chief Connectivity Officer. The game changed under their feet.

How are effective IT Leaders performing during this time of unprecedented impact as more is expected of them and their teams than ever before?

Highly Competitive – The best IT executives are very competitive, especially with themselves! They take pride in having the best, most-efficiently operating IT department. They take pride in achieving faster development cycle times, in adopting the latest technologies and methodologies first, in enjoying the gratitude of the departments they serve.

Must know their stuff and be very well trained and conditioned – Beyond high proficiency with technologies that are core to their enterprise, IT executives must also be continually conditioning themselves to successfully manage the many diverse talents and personalities that form any IT organization. The tremendously intelligent people involved in most IT teams require a sophisticated leader who can bring out the best in them.

To lead the team, they must be part of the team – Legendary symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein observed that to be a great conductor, one must be able to play each instrument in the orchestra, mostly. Hence, that conductor would understand and appreciate what each musician was experiencing. Just like a sports team, IT teams respect and admire a leader who truly comprehends their expertise, and themselves.

The more coaching they get, the better they perform, and the better the results they produce! – Even the most proficient high performing athletes will readily share praise for what their coach does for them. Similarly, executive coaches are most often engaged to focus on those with high potential to improve from wherever they currently are.

While many CIOs are going it alone, others are finding great value in calling on trusted relationships with their Executive Coach.

What to Look for in Your IT Executive Coach

Credibility – The first thing most leaders seek an IT executive coach is credibility. It’s one thing to have training and certification in professional coaching and advisory, that’s certainly very valuable. But, IT executives also want and need someone who truly understands and appreciates their world and what they experience each day. Someone who has invested years working as an IT executive comes with a level of credibility that is priceless.

Objectivity – IT Executive coaching is not like consulting or therapy. Despite their practical executive experience, you don’t go to them to share your feelings or ask them how to do anything or to validate how you do things. You look to them to be the objective outsider who looks at the challenges you present with no hidden agenda. You are looking for someone who can help you self-evaluate your performance, identify where you may have weaknesses that require correction, and establish areas where improvement will take you from merely good to truly great, best-in-class.

Clarity – Companies often invest in their most promising executives for coaching to accelerate their progress. Individuals also seek coaching when they want to accelerate the growth of their career, and when they have specific challenges, they’re not sure how to address. Their Executive Coach provides clarity in the process of improvement, helping to overcome the obstructions we often put in our way to avoid confronting uncomfortable truths about our actions.

Mutual Respect – A healthy coaching relationship requires mutual respect and trust. If these two elements are not part of the relationship, nobody is going to benefit. An executive must be able to trust they can confide in their coach without fear of judgment.

Motivation – Great coaches take an honest interest in the businesses they help and the executives they coach. If you want to see me get excited, talk to me about past or current successes, and watch me light up with enthusiasm. A good coach is motivated to discover who you are beyond your role as a leader and executive. They take an interest in why your business exists, how the business is run, and what they do to serve their customers. Once your prospective coach gets to know you and your business, that’s the kind of interest and motivation you should expect to see.

Vocation – For the genuinely excellent business or executive coach, coaching is never a job; it is a vocation. My journey into coaching provides me proof of this truth. Grant you, it took me over fifty years to discover my real purpose. And it took a coach to help me find it. When I did, my stars aligned. More importantly, I don’t regret my years as an IT practitioner, leader, and executive. These experiences provided me with the foundation and context to understand the world my clients live in without a great explanation.

What to Expect from a Quality Executive Coaching Experience

Your Executive Coach will begin by developing a clear understanding of your individual “current state,” focusing on where you see yourself positioned right now both from an organizational and personal performance perspective. Next, they’ll work with you to establish a clear definition of your “desired future state” and then structure a series of interactions to help you achieve that improvement.

Certified Executive Coaches will also provide structured experience assessments such as the BATES EXPI Executive Presence Assessment to dive deeper into your self-perceptions and provide more insight. And don’t worry about finding a qualified, certified executive coach near you…most are!!

Your engagement will continue beyond the scheduled interactions to include ad-hoc access to your Executive Advisor for answers to questions and clarifications on specific topics and points.

Anticipate Great Outcomes

Of those who’ve enjoyed Executive Coaching experiences, most appreciate the apparent improvements in communication and leadership skills they’ve achieved, saying it has improved their confidence and broadened their understanding of the executive experience. Ready to grow in their careers, they’ve taken the bold step of preparing a qualified successor and defined desirable growth paths for all their key team members. Most of all, they feel more a part of their company’s leadership team.

In Closing

An athlete does not get off the bench without the core capabilities. The coach helps them to find the inner strength and skills to excel. The same applies to the IT Executive. The life of the IT executive is wrought with challenges and setbacks. I predict the fallout from COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on how IT looks and the impression they leave. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. You may know where you want to go, and perhaps even have a good idea on how to get there, but a professional coach can offer the untarnished insight, feedback, and guidance you need to become a star player.

I am offering to help a limited number of CIO’s on a complimentary basis if you find you need a trusted colleague to bounce ideas around with or if you want to share in order to help solve a problem.


Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

The Fork in The Road

The Fork in The Road

Have you ever found yourself sitting at a fork in the road, wondering which path to take? I suspect most people can readily relate to this metaphor. The fork in the road is all about choice. The choice is where you pull together your options, your awareness of the possibilities, and assess risk mitigation tactics against desired outcomes.
Typically, I love being in the position to weigh my options against the possibilities and potential outcomes. I more than love it, I need and want it. I recognized that my need for decision making is a form of control that I’ve taken for granted. It’s been taken away with the COVID-19 pandemic. The level and speed of impact on human lives and society as a whole are unprecedented.
I worry a lot. I worry about the steep climb in the number of people impacted by the virus. I fear for the healthcare workers, the true heroes in this mess. I pray my family and friends will be spared. I watch the volatile stock market and economy with angst. It angers me that anyone believes GDP growth is worth a single life. At the same time, I worry about the clients furloughed and hope my kids won’t be next in losing their incomes. I find it curious that I don’t worry about me.
Instead, I find myself sitting at the fork in the road, wondering what I can do or should I do next. I am fighting for a level of control that is unreasonable to expect. I am questioning which options and outcomes are worth shooting for. Most of the time,  I just want the world to be restored to normal. And then at other times, I am more curious as to what can we do better to create a new normal when COVID-19 is no longer the major threat it is today.
Our normal was pulled out from under our feet. We can’t take anything for granted at this time. We can’t assume we will have access to essential material needs. It is frustrating to prohibit physical proximity to friends and society. We crave our favorite things, such as going to a movie, playing in the park, or stopping at the local ice cream shop for our favorite Rocky Road. We are washing our hands and practicing common sense sanitary habits, not sure how we forgot that one.
At the same time, this horrible disease is enabling us to spend time and connect with our immediate family members while distancing from extended family. I miss hugging my grandkids so very much. Kids are missing school, and I see parents taking up the reins to continue their learning. Never have I seen parents and their kids walking together, shooting hoops in their driveway, drawing with chalk on their sidewalk, or riding their bicycles as a family unit as I have in these past two weeks. I’ve met more of my neighbors than ever before despite our keeping a safe social distance. We are sharing needed staples without embarrassment or hesitancy.   We are picking fruit from our trees and leaving them in bags for strangers to come, pick up, and enjoy.
I’ve read more and reacquainted myself with lost hobbies, delighting in the feel of a paintbrush in my hand. I have signed up for an online drawing class in hopes of renewing long lost skills. My husband and I have spent more time in the past two weeks together cooking, talking, and just basically finding us than we would have in two months. I’ve taken the time to reach out and talk with old friends and colleagues across the globe. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and reveled in the reconnections.
In cities across the world, the streets are empty of vehicles and people; factories are shut down. In China, satellite images have shown a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution. The skies over Bejing are blue, and the water in the Venice canals is clear. In New York, scientists at Columbia University are reporting a significant drop in CO2 emissions as traffic has dropped dramatically. The earth is taking this time to heal itself, proving the role emissions play in climate change. Will the coronavirus finally help us to see our climate is a disaster we can solve through simple actions?
Do we want to return to a world consumed by greed and distance? Or, do we continue to build on the new communities we have started? Are there lessons to be applied? Will we grow from the experience and develop the missing safety nets? Will we look to adopt low climate impact transportation methods and advocate for increased working from home? What more can we do to make the world safe?   Will the coronavirus finally help us to see our climate is a disaster we can solve through simple actions?


I find myself questioning, “What outcomes should we expect?,  What outcomes do I hope for?”  As Alice answered, “I don’t know.”
We are all in this together. We know this pandemic has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  When it ends, which way will we turn in the fork in the road? Will we return to our way of living, or will we use this life-altering event to define a better way, a better outcome, and a better world for generations to come?
There is no easy answer to these questions. Please join me in continuing the conversation.
Take care, be safe, stay home, and wash your hands often,

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Thriving in Trying Times – Ten Lessons Learned

Thriving in Trying Times – Ten Lessons Learned

Nothing feels normal, and we know it won’t be for a while. I know I am not alone. The last time I felt this discombobulated was when my husband passed away in April 1999. Like then, everything around is in turmoil, and I feel at a loss in search of what action to take.
I am like that. I know many of my readers are as well. We tackle our challenges head-on, develop a plan, and take action. We are “get it done” type people. Perhaps it’s the first time in our lives we can’t control the environment around us. Some of us may feel like victims; some of us may want to pretend it is not a problem; some of us are just plain angry.
I was lying awake, during my 3:00 AM worry hour, and I realized that I am feeling a sense of grief. In the silence of the dark, I wondered, “Why grief?”  I don’t know anyone inflicted with Covid-19 much less anyone who has passed away from it. But I do recognize my fear for the well-being of family and friends, especially my siblings, with health conditions that put them at very high risk. I worry about our grandchildren, whom I love beyond comprehension, knowing that the little ones do not understand why I keep fussing over them when they put their fingers in their mouths. I question if I said the right things to answer my eight-year-old granddaughter’s concerns to comfort her worries about whether Grampa and I would be okay. There is a lot to worry about right now.
My feeling of grief were solidified by conversations with family, friends, and clients as they sought comfort and answers to their questions, “Will my company survive?”,  “Will I lose my job?”, “What will happen with the kids schooling?”,  “Am I doing enough to keep my kids safe?”
Yes, I believe we are all feeling a sense of grief.
Grief is often described in stages, though each stage may last for a different period — for some people, the steps may be briefer or more prolonged than for others, and some people may not experience all of them. The five stages of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
  1. Denial: This can’t be happening.
  2. Anger: Why did this happen? Who is to blame?
  3. Bargaining: Make this not happen, and I will do whatever it takes.
  4. Depression: I can’t bear this; I’m too sad to do anything.
  5. Acceptance: I acknowledge that this has happened, and I cannot change it.
While the five stages of grief may appear to step in a linear process, they are not. Even Kübler-Ross said that the stages are not meant to package up grief neatly — there is no typical loss and no ordinary or usual way of managing your grief. Grieving is as individual as we are. We all go through grief in our own way. You grieve at the loss of a loved one; you grieve when you lose a job, you grieve when any change we cannot understand or want is thrust upon us.
In the current situation, you may not believe your frustration has anything to do with grief. If that is the case, I ask that you not pass judgment on others as they work through figuring out their path.  We should not be afraid of taking this seriously.  It is serious.
In any case, I offer lessons learned from loss and change experienced from my past.
#1 – Stick to as normal of a routine as possible.  Get up, take a shower, get dressed, make some coffee, and get ready to work. Lounging around in your pajamas all day may sound comfortable, but I have found that if I dress for work, I am more productive.
#2 – Set up and stick to a schedule.  Create a plan for your workday at home that includes a start and end to the day. Staying consistent in the work environment at home is essential to your success and sanity. Refrain from scheduling in household duties. It will only serve to create conflict.
#3 – Create a home office space if you don’t already have one.  Set up a spot in the house and declare it your “office.” You need a workspace as similar as possible to the one you have at your office. Keep the items you need to do your work nearby. If you have a busy and distracting household, make sure you can still focus on the task at hand by talking to the family.  Letting them know how they can and cannot disrupt you through the workday. That will go a long way to making everyone happy.
#4 – Use headphones.  Pull out your headphones for your cell phone, so you can type or take notes during your call. Noise-canceling headphones are even better.
#5 – Go outside.  Social distancing does not mean you can’t take in a breath of fresh air. Leave your home at least once a day and get some fresh air and a new perspective. Take a lunch break, take the kids for a walk around the block or to the neighborhood park. Changing your environment at least once during the day can make you more productive, and the sun will make you raise your endorphins.
#6 – Use technology to communicate.  When working from home, you will need to change how you interact and communicate with your colleagues. Get comfortable with Teams, Skype, Zoom, Google hangouts, or whatever is an online tool of choice. Use video wherever possible!  We may need to be keep a physical distance.  We do not need to keep a social or psychological distance.
#7 – Focus your communications.  In a typical office setting, you may not think about connection because information just flows; everyone is right there. When working from home, you should focus on assuring your communication with key team members and stakeholders regularly. You may need to add more content and context to your communication to ensure the details don’t fall through the cracks.
#8 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive.  Instead of focusing on your worries, focus on the good things. For example, because we are home, we are slowing down the spread of Covid-19. Because of Covid-19, we have more time to spend with the kids.  Because of Covid-19, we can come together as a community to help each other.
#9 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive.  When my husband Tony died in 1999, I was a mess. During grief counseling, the therapist presented me a challenge:
“Now is the time to do something you always wanted to do but found an excuse not to do, perhaps fear, time, or money.”
So, I decided to take up sailing. A love that stayed with me until I chose to move to the desert. How about if you use this time for reflection and learning?  Think about it; this may be the perfect time to take up learning a new language, pick up that guitar sitting in the corner collecting dust, or merely read that stack of books that is waiting for you.
#10 – Trust and believe you will survive this.  Acknowledging that you may experience some or all these stages will help you understand what may be happening. Know that your feelings are reasonable, and it’s important to remember that at some point, it will get better. Most important take care of yourself and your family along with support for your friends and community. You may not get over your loss, but you will survive it.
In closing
We have the choice as to how we will react to situations in our life. We can either let them beat us down or teach us a hard lesson and grow from them. Choose to keep going even when it seems hard or impossible; there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. You will come out the other side a better person for it.
If you ever just need to talk, give me a call. Please trust my offer has no sales strings attached. This is not the time that anyone with honor should be bothering CIO’s and IT Executives with sales calls.
Take care, be safe and wash your hands often.

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Tech Refresh – Yes, it is still a requirement

Tech Refresh – Yes, it is still a requirement

Just like your car, just like your home, just like everything physical you own – IT Infrastructure will wear out, and it will break. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stepped into the head of IT Infrastructure role to find hardware upwards of 10 plus years old installed and supporting mission-critical applications with the business suffering under far too frequent Sev 1 outages.  Nothing erodes confidence in IT more than critical service outages. No one is interested in talking strategy or innovation with the CIO when core IT Services are not on solid footing.

Before you say, “That does not happen these days, everyone hosts their servers at AWS, Azure, Google, etc. “, please read the February 26 Tending the Plumbing article. According to a 2019 Spiceworks State of IT Budgets  article, 20 percent of IT budgets are spent on IT infrastructure. The 2019 Spiceworks research also shows the current reality is that 98 percent of businesses are running server hardware on-premise. (That is not to say 98 percent of servers are on-premise. It does not matter if you have one or two servers, or hundreds, if you are an organization of any size, you will have network equipment.)

What is IT Infrastructure again? 

IT infrastructure is the shared technology resources that provide the platform for the firm’s specific information system applications. IT infrastructure includes hardware, software, and services that are shared across the entire firm as well as access to external services such as web-hosted applications and services. Major IT infrastructure components include computer hardware platforms, operating system platforms, enterprise software platforms, networking and telecommunications platforms, database management software, Internet platforms, and consulting services and systems integrators, including desktop and mobile devices and software. Virtually, everything digital requires direct support or access supported by IT infrastructure. It is often the largest area of spending by an IT department.
There are four significant steps to an infrastructure roadmap approach:
  1. Established IT infrastructure lifecycle refresh strategy
  2. Identify current IT Infrastructure inventory
  3. Risk assessment
  4. Prioritizing IT Infrastructure Roadmap

IT Infrastructure Lifecycle Refresh Strategy

IT Infrastructure is comprised of hardware, software, and services shared across all platforms.
The hardware and software lifecycle is dependent on the supplier’s support plans and the company’s needs and wants to adopt the functionality and capability of more current versions.
Hardware is typically refreshed based on acquisition strategies (capital versus expense) against risk tolerance, resource capacity, and expense management requirements and will vary based on hardware categories. I’ve always used a general rule of thumb for budget planning:
  • PC’s: 36 months
  • Servers: 60 months
  • Routers/Switches 72 months
Like all rules of thumb, rules will be broken based on business growth and variables not always under IT controls.   A  sophisticated perspective of hardware refresh cycles can be found at https://www.computereconomics.com/article.cfm?id=2580

IT Infrastructure Inventory

First and foremost, your IT strategy and roadmap should include Infrastructure.   A good plan starts with understanding the current state, including an inventory of all things managed.  We want to hope that everyone has a robust configuration management database in place, but we know all too well that is often not the case.  At minimal, an asset inventory is required. If you don’t have one, you will need to create one utilizing a series of tools such as Microsoft’s SCCM, Solarwinds, and other asset management tools.


Fortunately, asset management tools such as Snow, Flexera, and ServiceNow are being challenged by many newcomers to the asset management space    https://www.gartner.com/reviews/market/software-asset-management-tools


Unfortunately, in some environments, there may be mission-critical IT equipment not attached to the network requiring a physical inventory exercise.  I’ve found this to be the norm in a manufacturing environment.  At a minimum, it is essential to research.

While gathering the physical attributes of the hardware will require identifying the services hosted, the install date and installed OS, utilities, and application software versions.  The service support lifecycle of both the hardware and OS should also be noted.  (Heads Up: Most of the time, this level of inventory rigor reveals configuration items underutilized, no longer relevant or never fully implemented.  That in itself is an excellent reason to build the inventory)
Once you have a substantial inventory, the next step will be to assess the risks associated with the individual pieces of hardware and software.

Risk Assessment 

Prioritization for executing refresh will be based on the risk associated with each inventory item.  Assessing the risk is a bit of art combine with science. Your assessment should take into consideration the business risk and technology risks of the current state. From a business risk perspective, you will want to weigh and assess the capacity and  maintenance cost.  Regulator compliance, and any health and safety risks the age and state of the hardware may imply.

From a technical perspective, vendor support quality, availability, service reliability. The complexity of support, including skill sets required, security, performance, standards conformations, and overall vendor security and performance characteristics, weigh into your overall assessment.

To add to this already multi-dimensional assessment, application projects in process as well as planned layered onto critical business calendar events must be identified as they will influence the timing and order of refresh activities.


Prioritization and Refresh Roadmap

This big picture holistic approach of identifying the landscape and assessing risk will prepare you for defining your technology refresh roadmap.  The roadmap will be a series of projects laid out across multiple years.  I have found managing the refresh projects grouped by technology as a program to be the best practice as the interdependencies can become unwieldy.  If the organization does not have an infrastructure project management life cycle, one can typically be developed using the existing waterfall systems development lifecycle.  The point here is the necessity of establishing the rigor of requirements, phase gates, resources management, change management, timelines, and success factors.

In Closing

It is simple, at the same time hard. Hard because it is not fun, often results in unplanned work and expense, and most importantly does not offer an apparent return to the business – until something critical breaks.  My advice to you is: Don’t be that CIO or IT Infrastructure leader left to account for allowing the company to be put at risk.  Call me if you want to discuss more or are looking for hands-on help in addressing your refresh requirements. That is not me, but I am sure I can recommend qualified resources.

Until March 25, have a great two weeks!