Standardizing IT

By Cary Westmark  |  Posted 2008-03-31 Print this article Print

In the eyes of non-IT executives, information and business technology is little more than plumbing—a cost of doing business that often detracts from their primary goal of improving the bottom line. Cary Westmark lays out his personal strategies for evaluating IT priorities against the corporate bottom line.

Standardizing IT

Standardize, standardize, standardize. I can’t use this word enough in front of executives. Most of them see standardization as a way to make IT jobs easier. That’s partly true: The more standardized the technical environment is, the easier management becomes. That means fewer tools and human resources are required, which results in lower costs.

However, in my opinion, standardization can have its greatest impact on the bottom line. Through standardization, you reduce costs by minimizing complexity and buying software and hardware in bulk. And standardization often produces greater operational efficiencies, since maintenance and training are more easily executed.

Executives don’t need to know the logic behind strategic IT issues such as standardization. What they do need and want to know is that a technology initiative will improve performance and lessen the burden on the corporate balance sheets.

Troon Golf began its standardization efforts in 2001, and about 65 of our operating facilities now work within the set standards. For those properties, we’ve been able to leverage a support team of just four technicians. Contrast that with the 20 facilities that don’t work with our standards, each of which has its own IT support person or team. The leverage in standardization is roughly one-fifth the human resources required.

Managing Licenses

Software license management is a challenge that plagues nearly every enterprise. Most companies either use expired/unlicensed software (out of compliance) or are over-subscribed (more licenses than are needed). Neither position is good, since expired licenses expose a company to fines for using unlicensed software, and over-subscribed licensing means that a company is paying for software it isn’t using.

The first key to strategically managing software licensing is to ensure that you have a solid system in place for procurement, deployment, license tracking and compliance management. Second, make sure that you, or someone on your team, is experienced in reading software license agreements, so that you can assess the appropriate number of licenses and decide whether software maintenance programs are in your company’s best interests.

An interesting statistic that I often tout is that 100 percent of the operating facilities for which Troon Golf has taken over management have had a software licensing issue. You heard me correctly: Every operating facility that we have taken over either has used unlicensed software or has been over-subscribed. The good news is that we have implemented a solid software license management process—including procurement, deployment and compliance management—to ensure that all our properties are minimizing expenses and risks.

Almost all software has an annual fee to cover technical support, patches and enhancements for that application, but not all software maintenance programs are required. If maintenance is an option, make sure you understand the alternatives, as there may be a more financially suitable solution for your company.

For example, at Troon, we forgo the Microsoft Software Assurance option (Microsoft’s annual software maintenance program), primarily as a way to reduce expenses. The assurance program is maximized for organizations that change their software standards every two to three years, and we have found that it’s less expensive to just buy ad hoc support and repurchase our software licenses every four to five years. We estimate that this saves our facilities approximately $50,000 annually in software maintenance costs.

Whatever your strategy is, develop it, document it and present it to your executive team in a way they will understand: Keep it short and focused on cost savings.

Westmark is vice president of technology at Troon Golf, the management company of some of the largest and best golf courses around the world.

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