I am lucky enough in my job to get opportunities to meet with some pretty senior people in the IT industry from the Fortune 500. Saving money is a funny thing to talk about at times. It seems like it is an obvious thing. Surely the best companies in the world must commit to a plan that involves reducing budget or saving money. I think that is a given, the problem is that life gets in the way.

Whether you are a Fortune 50 company or a Fortune 500,000 company, at the end of the day you want to focus on making money. Things that can help you make money are inherently far more important than things that will save you money. You also need to worry about your customer satisfaction. Anything you can do to make it easier for your customers to do business with you, or keep doing business with you, is probably a very close second to that notion of making money. Let’s not forget about risk, making sure that you will be able to continually serve your customers is something that your investors will not let you treat idly.

So here is where I find it interesting.  Whether you are a Fortune 50, 500 or 500,000, chances are that your resources and budgets are going to be consumed, so getting to that project that helps you save money, while it makes intuitive sense – doesn’t happen.  Not that you don’t want it to, you do, you just can’t get there.

If you permit me, here is where I would like to share some of my wisdom. I do get asked how to stretch budget: how do I do these top things that are likely to be focused on revenue generation, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing risk while still, at the same time, saving money. And most importantly, how can I do it by squeaking just a little bit more out of my existing team. In my experience it comes down to these three things:

  1. Analyze your current situation – constantly
    This is pretty much a no-brainer, yet it is often overlooked. If you take the time to assess your current IT infrastructure, you’ll be able to target particular aspects that need upgrades or tuning without having to do a forklift overhaul. An assessment doesn’t have to cost much either—especially if you conduct the analyses with the right people, you’ll be able to identify areas that need improvement and receive recommendations for how to move forward.There is no long-term budgetary commitment to this; it’s just a simple and much needed examination. This will actually become like a drug once you get good at it—it can become a part of your normal routine. You probably already have a lot of tools at your disposal—use them. Don’t use them once or twice in a fire-and-forget scenario. Keep at it—never quit.
  2. Train your own people
    I surprise a lot of people with this one but hear me out. Research gathered from the experts in the IT niche fields shows that as enterprise information and data quantities increase, usability and company knowledge tends to plummet. Such a critical inverse relationship has compelled many companies to initiate internal training programs to keep their employees not only up to date and knowledgeable about the technology they are about to work with, but also their current technology—which they need to keep working with.Depending on the complexity of the equipment and the applications, investing in the expertise of your personnel can save you a lot of time and money in the future…not to mention substantially reducing the risk of a panic-filled five-alarm fire / no-one-is-going-home type IT emergency. You may need to plan for this recommendation, but you will be happy that you did.
  3. Take a serious look at the mainframe
    IBM has done some remarkable things with the mainframe and the cost of using such a machine will likely surprise you. When I say that, I mean it will surprise you in the best way possible. We recently were talking with one of our customers who told us that the worst year ever for their mainframe was around 99.997% of availability, and in fact they have clocked 100% availability for the past three years. We had another customer who told us about their plans to modify their distributed applications, to build the environment to support replicating data and to ensure all data was kept in sync. By the time they figured all that out, they discovered that is was far cheaper to simply leave the data on the mainframe and evolve an existing application: a JAVA application running on Linux on their mainframe system.

Of course, every company is different and every company has a different IT environment that works for their specific business needs, but the outcomes are typically very similar. You need to run, grow and transform your business with what you have today. Sometimes you have to start thinking about things a little differently.

Regular Planet Mainframe Blog Contributor
Allan Zander is the CEO of DataKinetics – the global leader in Data Performance and Optimization. As a “Friend of the Mainframe”, Allan’s experience addressing both the technical and business needs of Global Fortune 500 customers has provided him with great insight into the industry’s opportunities and challenges – making him a sought-after writer and speaker on the topic of databases and mainframes.

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