What are the Hidden Costs of IT Ownership

Berra observe a lot by watching

Before you read any farther, stop and do this. Count how many applications, docs, files, and browser tabs you have open right now. (There’s no right or wrong answer so go ahead and count without judgment.)

Software Applications are Expensive Attention-Robbers

When you start your day, what desktop icons do you automatically click/tap without even thinking about it? Each of these consumes a sliver of your attention, even when you aren’t actively using them. Your brain knows these are waiting for you to do something. 

Every time you navigate from one tab to another your brain stops what it’s currently processing and jumps to this new request for its attention. The psychological term for this is context switching, and it’s a big productivity waster.

By now we all know that multi-tasking is a fallacy. Our brains don’t work like computers. We aren’t equipped with multiple processors and time-slicing processes where tasks run concurrently. We’re hardwired for One. Thing. At. A. Time. 

This brings us to the hidden costs of your IT investments. 

People Make Productivity Happen

We all buy the tools and technologies for our organizations that will help everyone do more faster. But there’s an unintended consequence that we don’t consider when we look at our IT budget line items. 

Productivity is something that we achieve using tools and technologies. It doesn’t happen without human interaction. Each open/click/tap tells our brain to pay attention – see where I’m going, now do this next. 

In this post, we shared the value every organization gains with a thorough technology roadmap. But there’s an important step that you need to include with this discovery. 

Software Sprawl Costs More Than You See On Your Budget

I was talking with a company leader who was ready to trim their technology bloat. He had identified a lot of redundant applications and was standardizing with just one across the organization. Makes sense, doesn’t it? 

But here’s something that is he hadn’t considered with this well-intentioned initiative. What happens to the productivity of the employees who are using the application that will be eliminated? 

Asking the IT team to compare features and product costs is an over-simplified, flawed approach. A decision based on functionality and pricing alone misses the point. They need to clearly understand how users do their day-to-day activities with the to-be-eliminated application.

Every piece of technology should help its users deliver specific, useful results. That means that users should contribute to the redundant technology decision-making. Actually talk with them. Watch what they do, and how they do it.

Our brains are trained to perform repetitive tasks, consuming less time to pause, decide, and then act. When an employee is required to change the way they do an everyday task -- much less completely learn a new piece of software -- their productivity takes a big hit. 

Lost productivity leads to increased frustration, loss of engagement, turnover, and hidden costs.

9 Action Items for Managing Software Sprawl

  • Your goal is to increase productivity, make the best use of technology, and eliminate software sprawl. 
  • More applications increase the risk of login credentials being reused.

    If you’re like most people, you use the same -- or some not so clever variation of -- the same username and password for most of the applications you use. This increases your exposure to data breaches.
  • Before you buy any piece of technology (even if you’re a company of one), add this key step into your decision-making process – include a user impact discovery. 
  • Before you eliminate a duplicate application, include business analysts who have the patience and experience to meet one-on-one with your users.

    Objectively listen and learn what people do every day to deliver on your expectations.

    • How do the tools they rely on contribute to their success?
    • What tools are getting in their way?
    • What would make their lives better?

    A note: your IT folks aren't the right people to do this one-on-one user engagement. 
  • Often resistance to change isn’t what it seems.

    Think about the tools you rely on every day. There’s nothing more frustrating than, for example, a Microsoft update that moves a familiar button you use without even thinking about it. Suddenly your flow is interrupted and productivity hijacked.

    Now imagine an employee who is abruptly told they can no longer use the tool that has made their best work possible (or at least bearable). 
  • Mental fatigue and burnout are real things. Continual changes in the way we do everyday things, no matter how small, contribute to burnout. Add and remove applications gradually.
  • The same goes for replacing an application with something that, on the face of it, appears to do the same, if not more, at a lower product cost. What are the user switching costs?
  • Continually remind everyone in your organization that the product or service price they see is just one part of the overall technology costs.

    Human factors and productivity are not nearly as easy to measure, but the costs of ignoring them are significant.
  • We all long for the “one thing that does it all” solution. Sorry. That’s not going to happen.

    What we need to do is to be mindful of the hidden costs of technology and make that thinking part of strategic IT decision making.

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    Tags: Technology Strategy

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    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships. She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

    Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need. As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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