Thursday's CIO list: Budget tips

Some CIOs swear by MOOSE -- a budget formula that tracks down budgets gone wild.

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Even if you have a budget to brag about, finding the money for innovation is a challenge. Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. calculates that only 24% of IT budgets today go to new initiatives. Where does the rest go? To what Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels calls MOOSE : maintain, operate, organization, systems and equipment.

Bartels and Forrester principal analyst Craig Symons teamed up for a session on how to retool IT budgets to help accomplish innovation at this week's Forrester conference in Boston. The short answer: Get the basics under control.

CIOs can improve their credibility by getting their houses in order, Bartels said. The obvious problem is that MOOSE is not only large, but also will keep growing as software fees and other costs from last year's new initiatives are added. CIOs must "drain the Moose," before moving toward new initiatives -- and lock down their MOOSE costs for the year ahead. SAS Institute Inc., for example, has driven its ratio of MOOSE/new initiatives to 50:50. SBC Communications Inc. has gone from 90:10 to 62:38. That's nice for the big guys, but what about you? Forrester offered a guide to taking control and cutting costs so you shine in 2006.

Step one: This is a complete inventory. Know what you have, where it is, and whether it's leased and covered by warranties. One way to shrink your MOOSE is through application portfolio management and asset management. It is not unusual for companies to locate six underutilized Intel servers, each with a separate application, or uncover serious risks, like five PCs running Windows 98, Symons said. Know the cost and value of maintaining custom applications, from legacy COBOL to the Java programs written last month.

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Step two: Map the IT assets discovered in step one to the business processes they support.

Step three: Retire obsolete assets and applications, remove redundancies, upgrade out-of-date systems and standardize wherever possible.

Step four: Optimize. Come up with a methodology for measuring IT business value. Symons said Intel's IT department came up with a formula that he considers among the best, and the company makes the information available on its Web site.

"The goal of managing MOOSE is not just to reduce costs," Bartels said. "It's to get on to the important goal -- which is to help the business change. Now is the time to do it because the CEO is not knocking on your door asking for stuff," he said, referring to the fact that CEOs aren't throwing dollars and new requests at IT departments the way they once did. "You have to build innovation capacity for the next transforming period when technology becomes hot again."

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