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When it Comes to IT, Take Lessons from Cuban Auto Mechanics

Doing More with Less

By Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw

Now that we’ve begun the process of normalizing relations with our neighbors to the south, those of us in the IT world could learn a few things by talking with a Cuban auto mechanic.

Take a walk in Havana, and you’ll find dozens of pre-1960 automobiles looking shiny and new, but held together with duct tape and a tailpipe fashioned from a Cold War-era Soviet tank. For decades, Cuban mechanics have been forced by necessity to do more with less, compromising on features while focusing on efficient use of resources.

So what’s the tie to IT?

It’s no secret in just about every industry that seatbelts are being tightened. Increased government regulations, automation, the ‘Internet of things,’ and the ever-increasing threat posed by cybercriminals are putting downward pressure on IT departments to ‘make it work,’ but for less. IT budgets are leaking oil, and CIOs are finding it harder and harder to find the mechanic and the manual to fix it. The bottom line is that everyone is being asked to find ways to do more with less.

Here are a few ideas that may help.

“IT departments are inherently inefficient,” said Mike Feld, interim CTO at Baystate Health and CEO of consulting firm VertitechIT. “But if we simply looked at standardizing the tools we use, we could save time, money, and resources that would make even the most jaded bean counter sit up and take notice.”

Most large and mid-size businesses have literally hundreds of applications sitting on servers in data centers and cloud environments across their infrastructure.

The collection has grown organically over the years as software developers play the never-ending game of ‘can you top this?’ And while all may have their own unique qualities, many applications can perform many of the same functions (while we continue to use just a fraction of the features built into them). The result is more expense, more manpower needed to service them, and capital dependence to keep things current.

You may need to compromise on features, but reducing the number of vendors and making broader use of a smaller number of products can have a dramatic bottom-line impact. Feld suggests you “ask yourself if 95% of what I want from these 12 areas work with a couple of products, rather having a dozen different products fulfilling 95% of my needs.”

The standardization and weeding-out process can also have a trickle-down effect on personnel resources. More efficient programs and processes free up people to be redeployed to work on projects that have been neglected for lack of available time and manpower.

On the architecture side, standardizing computing, network, and storage on commodity hardware using software-defined methodologies will also offer up significant savings. Hyper-convergence makes your network more efficient (cutting storage costs in half by using virtual instead of traditional storage methods) and allowing for the elimination of personnel silos as teams of people dedicated to each area now work as one.  It also makes them more effective, reducing service provisioning and delivery time from days and weeks to, in some cases, just hours.

In Cuba, doing more with less is a way of life. There’s an IT lesson in there somewhere.

Steve Shaw, vice president of marketing & communications at Vertitech IT, has spent more than three decades in the marketing and communications industries; [email protected]

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