Value Is Watchword for 2005 Budget

With budgets largely flat or even still shrinking, IT professionals are looking for value at every tier of the enterprise stack-but they're not making radical changes to core technologies.

With budgets largely flat or even still shrinking, IT professionals are looking for value at every tier of the enterprise stack—but theyre not making radical changes to core technologies.

Members of eWEEKs Corporate Partner Advisory Board are eyeing the potential of new technologies and tools, but theyre also polishing their political skills to build momentum from business needs inward—not from technologies outward.

The mission that emerged during a roundtable teleconference held last month is one of communicating the IT value proposition to the rest of the enterprise and building demand for what IT can deliver.

The mood of group members seemed to be that technology improvement proceeds at its own pace but makes a difference to their organizations only when costs are well-defined and well-controlled—and when operational issues, such as security, are managed at a level that keeps general managers comfortable.

These veterans of past vendor promises, and the disappointments that often follow, are very much drawing their own road maps rather than letting any vendor assume that role. Theyre still kicking the tires, for example, on Microsoft Corp.s Windows XP Service Pack 2. They appreciate its intentions, but theyll assure themselves of its readiness for smooth deployment before they push it out to their desktops.

The mandate that they all do accept, and that they all must find the resources to satisfy, is to meet rising legislative and regulatory requirements for IT support of corporate governance improvements—a new and most likely permanent addition to plates already well-filled with demanding tasks.

The participants in the roundtable, which was moderated by eWEEK Labs Peter Coffee, were: Randy Dugger, president, Dugger & Associates; Gary Gunnerson, IT architect, Gannett Co. Inc.; Susan Nowicke, network manager, U.S. Court—Eastern District of Michigan; Fran Rabuck, president, Rabuck Associates; Robert Rosen, CIO, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; and Kevin Wilson, product line manager of desktop hardware, Duke Energy.

How do emerging technologies fit into the budget planning at Gannett, Gary?

Gunnerson: Weve seen that the dark-fiber world is looking pretty good, and weve made investments there, and that still continues. If anything, those ROI [return on investment] projects look very good there.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here for an in-depth look at Gannetts emerging dark-fiber strategy.

What about the adoption of Web services or service-oriented technologies?

Gunnerson: Weve had pilots that weve been moving along, and we have a group thats dedicated to taking a look at Web services where they make sense, but things really havent changed much from last year.

Does that mean you feel that the technology is promising but hasnt jelled enough to be a platform for large-scale deployments, or you just havent established what its good for yet?

Gunnerson: Web services to us is another architecture approach, and were embracing it as it makes sense to us. Were not saying, "Lets go out and create a whole mess of Web services for third parties," as much as, "Why dont we make sure that when we architect things internally that we follow the Web services approach so that we can start using them as virtual resources inside our firewall."

How are things at U.S. District Court, Susan?

Nowicke: Whats looming on our horizon and getting worse and worse every year is a reduction in budget.

So your budget is not flat but actually still shrinking?

Nowicke: Well, it happens on several levels. As part of a federal judiciary, we make up a very small percentage of the federal budget. But even so, a lot of the budget resources are being redirected to homeland security, making even less and less available for the judiciary.

Last year ... we experienced a cut in our local IT budget of about 40 percent, and its expected to be at least that much again this year. So now were reading directives about cost-containment initiatives, and there are even some discussions about aggregation of servers regionally.

When you get told that your budget is going to shrink by 40 percent, what are your targets when you have to cut that much?

Nowicke: Well, to do whatever we can at no cost better and to find ways to streamline and maybe even combine resources so that we can do things better.

Its impacting salaries, too, not just in IT but across the board. A figure that I saw this morning said that within the federal judiciary, 6 percent of salaries are made up of IT people. So were looking at ways to combine or aggregate resources so that when a RIF [reduction in force] goes through, they can include IT as part of the group that gets RIFed.

Has anyone been discussing the offshoring of any of your operations or management to get that done?

Nowicke: Not that Im aware of, and I think there may even be some conflicts of interest in doing that.

Next page: SP2 strategies.