Consolidation Pays Off, But at What Price?


When the economy drops, IT--like all departments--faces the axe. Still, recent reports from Forrester and IDC show a slowdown in IT spending, but not necessarily a cut.

But things could always get worse. So what's a CIO to do?

Howard Rubin, the subject of our "Expert Voices" interview this month, says companies should spend their way through economic downturns. Strategic IT investments, the benchmarking guru says, can help companies dig out competitive advantages--and blow away those that shy away from spending. (Frank Modruson, Accenture's CIO, makes a related argument.)

But it's not easy to tell which investments will pay off. Thankfully, our new research on IT spending offers some answers: asked which tactics will lead to the greatest IT savings, six in 10 IT executives pointed to infrastructure consolidation. (That number rose slightly for big-company CIOs and IT executives.)

Last week I took a small, unscientific poll of a group of CIOs I've interviewed in the past. I asked them about their most pressing priorities and concerns today; again, infrastructure consolidation took the prize. In fact, it was the one topic that appeared in every response.

A big name for a big project, one that causes years-long headaches for most IT executives and project managers. Projects run past deadline. Funding can evaporate for other priorities. Vendors and consultants can muddy the plan. It's no wonder CIOs are losing sleep.

To be sure, consolidating systems and applications has been a high priority for years, but with CIOs bracing for a possible recession--and the collateral damage of stalled projects and slashed budgets that could come with it--consolidation takes greater precedence.

Virtualization is playing a big role here. Mainframes are also figuring in--spending is up by 10 percent, according to our survey.

(In case you're wondering about the other tactics that help boost savings, see our findings.)

Bottom line: while our survey finds that gloom and doom hasn't completely taken hold (yet), IT executives need a laser focus on the big projects they have in progress.

We'll be digging into this issue more in the near future, so stay tuned. In the meantime, tell us: What are the biggest obstacles you're facing in consolidating infrastructure?


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