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. Thats 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 elses. In the same way, the infrastructure were going to provide has to be the lowest cost possible. That doesnt mean were buying the cheapest technology. It means were spending our technology dollars wisely."
Its 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 its 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 Nextels LeFave.