Train to Strain

By Gary Bolles  |  Posted 2003-09-01 Print this article Print

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.

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 cant 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 youve already optimized IT.

    Gary Bolles Gary A. Bolles is the Editorial Director for Ziff Davis Media's Custom Conference Group. He is responsible for directing the group's editorial efforts, ensuring the quality of the content it delivers, and moderating and speaking at client events. A frequent lecturer and keynote speaker on a variety of technology topics, he has hosted more than 50 events in the past year alone.

    Bolles was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Interactive Week, developing its unique vision, the founding editorial director of Sm@rt Reseller magazine, creating the publication from initial research, and the founding Editorial Director of Yahoo! Internet Life, managing its successful launch. Bolles was also the Editor-in-Chief of Network Computing Magazine, and for one year was the host of 'Working the Web' for TechTV, covering a wide variety of technology-related topics. Until recently, he was a contributing editor to CIO Insight, writing on a broad range of technology subjects, and assisting in the coordination of the publication's research efforts.

    Bolles is the former Chief Operating Officer of Evolve Software, Inc., and the former VP of Marketing for Network Products Corporation. He has served as a marketing consultant to a variety of organizations, and has advised a number of software startup companies in arenas such as online marketing and data mining.

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