Smart IT investment is all about understanding the true value that IT and technology can deliver. However, for many enterprise organisations exacting a direct business return from IT assets has been difficult to achieve.

The root cause of this stems from that fact that most IT expenditure is not linked to consumption metrics. Generally it’s viewed as a CAPEX overhead measured on deployment time and cost rather than being treated as something that is actively developed and implemented based on usage metrics and demand patterns. When decisions go wrong, the result is that IT is often seen as an overspend area associated with sprawling projects going over budget and over time.

With economic conditions still extremely tough, and many companies reviewing their procurement decisions around IT, business case justifications for future purchases and development are going to be stricter than ever before. Proving the business value of any investments will be essential. So what can IT do to adapt to new commercial pressures?

There is no doubt that going forward IT will have to have more intelligence about the way IT services are consumed. The emergence of Cloud and the expanding use of virtualisation are causing a rethink on sourcing strategies, and having the ability to make judgements based on running IT as a business will be imperative for any forward thinking CIO or IT decision-maker.

So how can this level of intelligence be gathered in practice, when it’s proven so hard to extract to date? Well, there are some key steps that IT can adopt today that can help them take a more value driven approach to investment decision-making:

Understand how your current environment is really being used

The ability to look at how existing services are being delivered, how much they are being used, and whether existing technology choices are providing the right return on investment, is crucial before making any new investment decision. By having clarity on application consumption you can begin to evaluate whether applications required by users are being delivered in the most cost-effective and efficient way. So the first step is to adopt application and desktop asset discovery and use application monitoring tools that can capture this detail across your entire IT estate.

Identify the most effective platforms for user requirements?

When it comes to application delivery, the discussion around what platform is most suitable for the business covers three main requirements: cost, responsiveness and flexibility. Looking at these three areas, what might be the most suitable platform for the long term is not always the most obvious, or be the current ‘flavour of the month.’ Instead, it may be better to take a blended approach depending on user requirements, existing capacity and how resources can be supplemented or used more effectively.

The important thing to consider is not how the application is used on its first day – it’s about long term monitoring of application usage. After a “big bang” implementation aimed at hundreds of users, if it turns out that a much smaller fraction of people are using the service than was forecast it would represent a lot of wasted investment.

At that point, the ability to show how real-world conditions are deviating from those that were originally planned for is important, as application license costs can be rationalised to save money and capacity directed to where it can provide the best results for the business. It can also free up much needed budget that would otherwise be wasted. Automating this process is key. Application decisions in large enterprises are involve multiple staff so a central inventory will enable application delivery to be tracked effectively.

Also with staff changes, documentation on software licensing can be lost. Cataloguing all applications being deployed and metering the use of platforms in place is essential to understanding, what assets are most effective for your business, and which ones should be changed or optimised.

Why sourcing strategies will define IT effectiveness

When you have multiple different ways to host applications and deliver them to users, the ability to model costs and usage patterns is critical. This involves looking at “real world data” from the organisation and where it exists alongside information on the costs of acquisition and management for the application or service on particular platforms. Most organisations already have asset management data on-hand, but it has been designed with compliance in mind, rather than business planning; being able to use this information to demonstrate how the organisation is actually using IT resources is therefore more valuable than just a static list of assets with no context.

With IT intelligence based on the consumption of services, the organisation can choose the right platform for its new application, or change the platform of an existing system to deliver better levels of performance. For example, if an organisation is using virtualisation already, then it may be able to find spare capacity for a new application within its existing data centre; however, it could also show that greater long-term savings and user satisfaction could be delivered by looking at a server-based computing approach or moving to the Cloud instead.

A new level of intelligence tools for IT

From the CIOs perspective, the ability to make technology decisions that map back to the values being driven by corporate strategy is imperative. Applying the same logic around business rules to IT services can deliver the information needed to support smart decisions around application deployment and technology strategies.

This idea of ‘IT intelligence’ can be used as part of any application project, but it makes the most sense when applied on an ongoing basis. By providing IT with the right information about service delivery, IT intelligence can ensure that either the right application delivery platform is chosen in the first place, or can help the organisation to react faster to a changing business landscape. With so much change currently taking place in the wider world, this level of information is now essential in order for large IT driven organisations to remain successful as well as make the best decisions for the future of the organisation.