Cautious optimism shapes new year

By , Network World |  Hardware

"Some of these skills take time to develop, so you need to put that timeframe in place to really build up your bench strength," Mok says. "If you haven't started, now is the time."

Greater scrutiny, shorter ROI

As money got tighter in 2009, so did the budgeting process.

At Brandeis University, the largest initiative on Turner's radar -- an 802.11n project -- only passed budget muster after vigorous cost analyses. "We're planning a large scale network refresh, with one of the major areas focusing on edge technology," he says. "In some areas we're anticipating eliminating wired access altogether, and in other areas we're looking at maybe a 30% reduction in wired access."

Total cost of ownership is the name of the game now, Turner says. "Everything that comes across the desk today goes through several budget checks before it's even sent to budget. In the past that wasn't as critical as it is today." The 802.11n deployment has taken into account everything from the cost of switches and power requirements to space usage, maintenance costs and other associated expenses.

In addition, Turner and his peers are getting used to a newly established project review and advisory committee made up of senior university leaders. While that can mean more red tape, Turner says it helps more quickly align the puzzle pieces. "It's great because we have more integrated planning than we've ever had before. At a university, that's rare."

The review committee has also wound up highlighting areas where IT is helping the university by not only providing better technology, but also saving money and improving the university's bottom line. "It's exposing some of our wins," Turner says. "That puts us in a better light, as opposed to just being seen by the rest of the university as a service provider."

Another sign of the times: Companies are looking for shorter payback. "A long time ago we used to be able to justify IT projects with an ROI of 18 months," says Andi Mann, vice president of research at Enterprise Management Associates. "It came down to around 12 months a couple of years ago, and now you've got to be able to justify spending within six months on a solid business case."

New IT priorities

Spending didn't grind to a halt in 2009, but the recession shifted investment priorities. In general, projects that got the green light were about gaining efficiencies -- lowering operating costs, making users more productive, streamlining business processes.

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