IT leaders know the positive impact that IT can have on business processes. Unfortunately, this value is not always clear to management who sign off on or heavily influence IT projects. Here’s how to use budget rationalisation to demystify the business value of IT and drive digital workplace innovation.
Budget Rationalisation: Are Organisations Being Rational?
At this year’s Gartner Digital Workplace summit, Gartner Research VP Monica Basso stressed the need for IT leaders to shift from a keeping-the-lights-on approach to taking a more active role in transforming the business through digital workplace initiatives. According to Basso, “The more the workforce evolves, the more achievable business growth becomes. This is the digital workplace and it should be a priority. There is a desperate need for a digital workplace initiative to drive business outcomes.” To adopt this mindset and become business leaders, first we’ll have to change the way that we think about IT budgeting.
From working with partners and customers over the years, my biggest takeaway is that how organisations approach "budget rationalisation" can vary tremendously. One of the biggest challenges I have encountered when engaging in rationalisation initiatives is the lack of a clear definition of what success looks like and a collaborative and meaningful way to measure the outcome. Organisations need to take a step back when it comes to setting the IT budget and think about two things: 1) What data do they need to understand their environment? and 2) What is the desired outcome of a budgeting project and how can it be measured?
In terms of defining outcomes, Basso recommended constructing a vision for a digital workplace and using that vision to rationalise investments in technology. She also noted the importance of focusing on users’ needs: “To be successful, users have to be at the centre. You need a dialogue with staff to understand their skills and expectations.”
Putting Users at the Centre
A Gartner press release, “Gartner Highlights Eight Critical Components of a Digital Workplace” echoes Basso’s sentiments, noting that “Creating an excellent employee experience is a pivotal aspect of a digital workplace.”
IT budgeting efforts frequently overlook the perspective of the end user. When looking at rationalising budgets, there’s often a disjointed approach that is created by looking at numbers in a spreadsheet (such as hardware and software inventories) with no intelligent way of discerning where users are finding value in their technology resources. Not to mention that taking such a manual approach creates additional challenges in the form of human error, significant time to collect and collate data, and no clear impact to the respective area of the organisation that is in focus.
There must be a better way. You need real insight and data into people, process and technology to first understand where things are, why they are like that and in order to successfully bring that data into play to make informed decisions.
Add into the mix measuring both short- and long-term success, and budget rationalisation needs to be a constant exercise--not an annual or periodic process. Organisations aren't static; they must react to change as well as deal with day-to-day operations whether it be IT, business shift or innovation.
Thankfully, there is a clear answer to the problem of understanding end users’ experiences with new technologies: distilling user experience into a metric that can be trended and correlated with technological performance as well as other metrics, such as end user adoption and engagement. By focusing on the end-user experience as a key metric in the budgeting process, IT will be better equipped to make decisions based on business value (end-user productivity with new technologies) vs. mere cost-cutting.
Employee Productivity and the IT Budget
By measuring end-user experience, one of the key elements we can identify is productivity loss. This is the degree of impact on someone trying to do his or her job and it taking longer than it should due to poorly performing technology.
Rationalising budgets around business outcomes or what employees need to optimise productivity is where a business can see real impact to profitability. Simultaneously, this ensures that increased spend doesn’t recur by having the real data and insight into where the challenges are and addressing them through informed action, enabling IT to optimize hardware and software portfolios, improve service desk time-to-resolution, and reduce user downtime overall.
Data-driven decisions can be the difference between success and failure. By ensuring that a business has the real insight into the current state of the IT environment and utilising user-focused analytics to help prioritise spend, organisations can not only save money but innovate more quickly through better planning, cost avoidance and ensuring that users have positive experiences with critical workplace technologies. This ultimately makes an organisation successful and enables it to be the most productive it can be. Nothing highlights the need for this visibility more than the confluence of internal and external that comes from blending SaaS applications and exploring IT options outside the core organisation.
Budget Rationalisation in Practice
One key way to practice budget rationalisation is by analysing IT, its usage, its performance and its overall state, directly at the end user’s workspace: the endpoint. We call this practice workspace analytics, which, when implemented, can help IT drive digital workplace innovation by streamlining the IT practices themselves with the end user in mind.
With workspace analytics solutions like Lakeside’s SysTrack, IT can monitor key metrics like end-user experience in order to ensure that users are being positively impacted and that investments and expectations are being met or even exceeded.
Recently, I worked with a client who had outsourced their service desk with both on and offshore support. In this instance, it was actually the outsourcer who realised the true value of workspace analytics with significant hard cost savings whilst also differentiating and bringing real innovation to the client.
As with any outsourced support, there is a cost to the provider. By utilising workspace analytics, the provider was able to shift left on the cost for support from L3 to L1 and L2. By having access to root cause analysis information on end users’ systems, IT was able to significantly reduce the costliest of support calls desk side support by empowering outsourced L1 and L2 teams with both visualised and meaningful data, which in turn improves the experience for their customer’s users.
Another way that outsourced IT support was able to utilise workspace analytics to deliver value to their client was by using endpoint data to rationalise innovation initiatives such as the move to Windows 10. They have also been able to focus on rationalising their own budgets in the services they provide, including right-sizing of virtualised workspace solutions.
This is one of many potential examples of how, with access to the right data, IT is better able to undertake budget rationalisation efforts based on an awareness of their existing environment and a more meaningful way to track success. This approach is a critical step in the process of enabling the digital workplace and, ultimately, allowing end users to be more productive by providing IT resources that are better aligned with the workforce’s needs.