40% Cutbacks to IT Department -> What do you do?

This was created as part of my participation in the graduate course Educational Hardware Systems at the George Washington University. The scenario was to make a plan that addresses a 40% cutback in funding for IT in your enterprise. These are my thoughts... would love to read about your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.


I’m considering this exercise in the context of a public school district. Some assumptions:

  • Schools in the district are equipped equitably
  • Current state of technology is no worse or better than any other average year
  • There are no new policy directives requiring technology


Prong 1:
Pursue BYOD program to reduce load on existing hardware, leverage personally owned technology, and ease the need to purchase/replace hardware. Focus hardware supports in low socio-economic schools to support students who may not have their own devices.

Business: Using sample data from Operations Management Technology Consulting GmbH(Luxembourg & Sommer, 2013) Hardware accounts for about a quarter of IT expenses. Reducing capital investments in new computers while increasing access and connectivity will help achieve budget goals without impacting productivity.

Technical: (Hardware) Consider technology use agreements, level of support for personally owned devices, securing data and network integrity. (Humans) Preparing learners for maintaining and appropriately using their own technology, and preparing employees for working with an unpredictable pool of hardware will present a challenge.

Educational: Accessing information and productivity tools on one’s own device may well be more motivating than having to use an assigned computer. One study (Mang, Wardley, & Bay, 2012) reported that more than 40% of college students reported not using the full capabilities of their assigned hardware because they knew they had to return it at the end of the year. Using one’s own hardware increases the motivation to fully understand and utilize their technology tool.


Prong 2:
Network/Internet maintenance and development to ensure robust and reliable connectivity.

Business: Every aspect of enterprise relies on the network for its operations. Online spaces and resources are as much a part of the enterprise as the physical spaces (Futhey, Schroeder, & Benatan, 2013). Connectivity must be supported and developed first and foremost.

Technical: Consider bandwidth requirements for accommodating bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and increasing multimedia streaming. While enterprise-owned hardware may reduce in number, or at least stay static in a period of austerity, prong 2 will produce increased network load and introduce security issues.

Educational: Access to online resources, communications technology, and productivity tools are integral to 21st century education. Whether learners are using their own devices or those provided by the institution, robust connectivity ensures access to the broadest and most comprehensive learning resources.


Prong 3:
revise maintenance/upgrade schedules to keep existing devices in operation for the foreseeable future. Running vintage software on vintage machines can leverage speed and performance from old computers, as long as security patches are in place. Ensuring enterprise hardware is secure, protected, and well-managed will control maintenance costs (Nash Networks, 2009).

Business: Adopting a BYOD program places maintenance obligations on the end-user. While this has the advantage of offloading costs, it also means a loss of control over the technology used. Providing some support and maintenance services on a cost recovery basis goes some way to reducing overall costs while supporting end users.

Technical: Consider rebalancing investment equation to determine which of the existing enterprise devices are worth refurbishing or upgrading in order to extend usability. Where network and device security is not compromised, resist upgrading applications to the latest version. Strip browser add-ons, plug-ins, and reduce/eliminate startup programs to free up operating memory. Repurpose or redeploy older computers for light-load purposes (eg. simple office applications, email, browsing). Also consider replacing desktop computers with much cheaper thin-client devices that make use of cloud computing resources.

Educational: Ensure a pool of computers at each site capable of running required software (student/learning/content management systems). Maintaining status quo with hardware does not preclude the use of new browser-based applications though older browsers may not always support the application demands.


Prong 4:
explore budget alternatives: Extend amortization schedules for technology purchases. Explore rented/leased hardware which shifts budget requirements from capital to operating expenses. Operational expenses are more flexible and allow for greater scalability as needed (Baker, 2010).

Business: Consultations with the organizations’ Chief Financial Officer may reveal changes in acquisition/ownership practices that allow for continued access to learning resources in addition to reduced costs.

Technical: Consider limitations or restrictions that may come with leased/rented equipment. Duty of care, insurance, maintenance obligations, penalties associated with the lease agreement must be clearly understood, communicated, and implemented.

Educational: The budget line from which a purchase is made is not likely to affect how a student learns.


Prong 5:
Transition to cloud-based services offering productivity software and storage solutions. This will lower the total cost of ownership by reducing need for local storage infrastructure (Sundeen & Sundeen, 2013). It also supports less expensive thin-client

Business: A Forbes article on Cloud Computing reported savings of more than 20% on infrastructure costs with a shift to cloud computing.

Technical: Consider data security – what data needs to be stored locally, what can be cloud based.

Educational: Educational experiences using cloud resources opens the door to greater collaboration, wider access, and more current tools.


Sources Cited

Baker, G. (2010). Why CIOs Should Shift from Capex to Opex -- CIO Update. Retrieved September 03, 2014, from http://www.cioupdate.com/budgets/article.php/3905476/Why-CIOs-Should-Shift-from-Capex-to-Opex.htm

Futhey, T., Schroeder, T., & Benatan, E. (2013). Creating the IT architecture for the connected age. Retrieved September 03, 2014, from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/multimedia/ESPNT133.mp3

Luxembourg, Y. P., & Sommer, T. (2013). IT Costs – The Costs, Growth And Financial Risk Of Software Assets. Muenchen, Germany. Retrieved from http://omtco.eu/references/sam/it-costs-the-costs-growth-and-financial-risk-of-software-assets/

Mang, C. F., Wardley, L. J., & Bay, N. (2012). Effective Adoption of Tablets in Post-Secondary Education : Recommendations Based on a Trial of iPads in University Classes. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 11, 301–317.

Nash Networks. (2009). Total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT (Vol. 9, pp. 1–14). Retrieved from http://www.nashnetworks.ca/pdf/TCOofIT.pdf

Sundeen, T. H., & Sundeen, D. M. (2013). Instructional Technology for Rural Schools : Access and Acquisition. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 32(2), 8–14.


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