We are just beginning the last quarter of a very eventful year both in Ghana and abroad. While most managers will be wrapping up bits of business for the year as well as budgeting for the new year, it will be very important to take cognizance of some very important policy decisions related to your approach to IT in your office.
It will be very necessary in this last quarter to conduct a review of how your IT systems have added value to your business. A recent conversation with a top CEO revealed to me that a lot of due diligence and auditing does not go into how procurements are made in IT infrastructure and services and how those expenses are justified. Vendors usually inform management of updates to software, and these are adopted willy nilly, with very little attention to detail.
Importantly, your core business components that are complemented by IT should be assessed to see whether there are loopholes in productivity or not. Your decision to purchase software or services should not be vendor driven; they should be based on the requirements and necessities of your operations and how they can be enhanced effectively by any acquisition.
Another important consideration is whether your hardware is compatible with the software you use, or whether you are overtasking your server or other hardware with too much software, effectively slowing down core operations with the hope of maximizing existing hardware. In mission critical cases, this can actually be one of the most counterproductive decisions you can make.
Occasionally, itwill be important to allow external IT auditors to evaluate your software and systems in order to give you and your business a fresh perspective into how to maximize your resources and business systems while maintaining a competitive advantage with what resources you have got.
And of course, if you need to make the decision to procure, this last quarter of the year is one of the best times to do that. First of all, most of the products released throughout the year will be reduced towards Christmas sales. Good deals especially on bulk purchases mean that this would be the best time to restock your equipment and remove outmoded equipment.
October and November are months where most producers either release new software, services or hardware, and early adopters sometimes stand to gain certain benefits, warranties and rebates. Should you have the resources, you could start preparing for online specials on days like Black Friday, which usually sparks a weekend of some of the best deals and sales on computer hardware and software. This day usually falls on the day after the American holiday of Thanksgiving.
Procurement should be a careful and strategic activity especially in IT, since the sophistication of computer systems these days could easily mislead you into procuring systems that might just not suit your needs exactly. It is imperative that before you decide on anything, you carefully analyse what the main requirements are and stick to those.
In terms of software upgrades, especially those that require significant capital outlay, buying up extra features at high prices might be a waste of money especially when other software companies could run very simple modifications to your software to achieve those ends at a tenth of the cover price. This should however be done with consideration to whatever licensing agreements you have arranged with your vendor.
Should you decide to procure specialized software, make it a point to ensure that the code is well documented in order that modifications could be made by other specialists, since in these days of takeovers, you never know when a company or supplier could be swallowed up and your support could be lost.
A simple checklist for IT procurement should be the following:
- It has to serve core business interests
- It should be easily upgradeable
- There should be vendor support. If possible, have extra agreements that secure support and licensing
- There should be a fallback in case of failure
- Research on price from multiple vendors before making a decision
- Have an external consultant give advice for comparison.
While this is a very simple checklist, it could open up questions you never thought about.