Stop Doing That

Blog /Stop-Doing-That

With the holidays over, I decided to step on the bathroom scale and tally up the damage. It wasn’t pretty. After going through the Five Stages of Weight-Induced Grief (disbelief, panic, blaming others, self-justification, laziness), I decided I needed to do something. Namely, exercise.  

The problem with that can be expressed in one word: when? I’m an early riser because of our global team. I routinely get up at 4:45 and am in the office by 5:30.   After work, I do some chores, reconnect with my wife, eat dinner, go through a few emails, relax a bit, and head off to sleep. It’s not like I have hours I don’t know what to do with. After thinking it through for a week, I realized the only solution was to stop doing some things to make time for exercise.

Digital business initiatives are a lot like my exercise situation. Every CIO, CTO, and CDO I know has more on their plate than they can handle. In almost every case, the business is demanding new digital initiatives to match or beat their competition. And last I checked, most CIO’s budgets shrink on an annual basis. With the same large portfolio of apps to perform break-fix on (alongside enhancements and required upgrades to COTS software, underlying DBMS, or OS technologies), what’s a CIO to do?

The answer is to stop doing some things. It’s a simple concept, but let me explain a bit. If you sort your application portfolio into four quadrants, it will look like this:

Stop Doing That Quad 1

And when you align your spending into those quadrants, I suggest the following:

Stop Doing That Quad 2

The key to this strategy are the bottom two quadrants: The Deep Freeze and Maintain. Minimizing your spend in non-critical areas allows you to shift that money to applications that need replacing and those designed to help you stay ahead of the competition.

I know this is easy to say and hard to implement. But I have personally seen it done with a great deal of success. Let me recount a real-life example.

A number of years ago, I was the deputy CIO for a firm with 150,000 employees that operated globally. I was in charge of all internal applications, and when I got the assignment, I got all the projects that were in flight dumped in my lap.

The largest problem was a conversion from a highly mutated version of Lawson Financials into a new implementation of SAP. The project had been back-burnered for years because the funds weren’t available to gear up for the SAP configuration and conversion. The project had been stalled for eight years.

I called my team together, and we dug into the SAP project. How many people did we need? What funds? What percentage of our budget would get this done so the company could move on? The answer came back with chilling clarity: we had only enough budget to do break-fix on our current portfolio if we were going to implement SAP.

I grabbed my pad and pencil and I started meeting with the business owners of my application portfolio. I met with finance, HR, facilities, and about a dozen other leaders. I explained the problem and told them our proposed solution: a freeze on all application enhancements and implementations—except SAP—for the year.

I was shocked by the result. Every unit signed up for the Great Freeze so we could finally implement SAP. We completed everything before the end of that year. In January, we opened the gates to other projects—but this time, the money the SAP project had been siphoning away for years was available for other work. We not only celebrated a win, we ended up being able to do a lot more work for the business the next year.

Sometimes, when you don’t build it, they’ll still come to support you.

Post Date: 1/18/2016

Brad Rucker - NTT DATA Brad Rucker

About the author

In 1981, Mr. Rucker spent his entire monthly salary on a TRS-80 Color Computer, taught himself to code and never looked back. Since then he has been a programmer, DBA, system designer, project manager, CIO, CTO and COO. Currently he serves as SVP of the Digital Applications & Information Management Practices at NTT DATA Services.