Wall Street Beat? The Fiction of 2013 IT Spending Forecasts Reply

Wall Street Beat: 2013 IT Spending Forecasts Look Upbeat.

If this is the case then an organisation with a $USD 100m IT spend is set to increase their capex by $3.3m this year and $6.1m next year.  This represents almost $10m increase in capex in the next 2 years.

I am not sure where they get these figures from?

technology spending. tech rebound. mckinsey chart

If we assume the standard wisdom that economies traditionally take 2 years to recover from recession and a further 2 years to return to trend growth then it will be 2017 before IT budgets hit 3.4% growth.  Given the savage cuts in IT budgets after the recent recession(s) I think these figures are conservative.  A further factor to consider is that the ICT industry is so highly segmented that generalised growth is meaningless.

Looking at the finances of the tech rebound of 2003/3 (shown above in the Mckinsey & Co chart) we can see that – at the high end – IT capex of $73m accounts for 12% of the overall budget.  At this rate, 6% growth equals a $36.5% growth in capex by 2015.

This is, of course,  nonsense.  The moral of the story is:  don’t look at reports of astonishing growth in the tech sector.  Research has shown that the ICT sector is made up of so many tiny segments that even McKinsey’s figures are to be viewed with caution.

In summ, the burst of the 2001 tech bubble saw IT budgets plummet roughly 70%.  There are no reliable current fugures as to the general sum of cost cuts per sector in ICT budgets.  However, if we count on 10-25% overall budget reductions then it will be well beyond 2017 before we see budgets returning to pre-2008 in real terms. If anything is certain, however, tech always surprises.

 

The Complexity of Cost (Pt.2): a 3-tiered strategy for an effective ICT cost reduction program Reply

cost-reduction

In our last blog we recounted that most ICT cost reduction programs fail.  More to the point, we noted how they fail in larger businesses through a vicious cycle following increased overhead from poor process analysis.  All this stems from a limited view of direct and indirect ICT spend.

In summ, the answer is detailed cost modelling of ICT which analyses the firm’s technology in its place as a business capability enabler. This is vital in the current economic climate otherwise businesses will simply benchmark their costs against similar firms rather than try to pare ICT costs to the bone.

The results of traditional IT programs?

  1. ICT cost reduction programs usually only attack the easy and obvious.  For sustained cost management in ICT the cost reduction program needs to attack:  (i) soft costs (indirect spend), (ii) managerial costs and (iii) program costs as well as all the standard hard costs.
  2. Cost cutting reduces capability.  Traditional approach is to cut applications and services as well as heads but capability will eventually suffer.  Senior people are often made redundant was work is pushed from higher to lower paybands.  With them also goes much of the firm knowledge capital and goodwill of the firm.  If we want to quantify this cost of lost knowledge it is the difference between the market value and the book value of a business.

The problem is that IT is usually seen as a black box.  Few senior executives understand the subtle dependencies which stretch from technology throughout the business.  More importantly, few understand that actual capex and opex of ICT  just represents the hard costs of ICT.  In addition to the hard costs are the soft costs, the management costs and the program costs of ICT.  In more detail:

  • Soft Costs relate to all the indirect spend which flows from ICT procurement.  This may include travel for non-IT personnel involved in change, training and customisation or process change etc.
  • Managerial Costs is the accumulated cost of decision making from management.  This is pure overhead and is not accounted for in the Cost of Goods Sold but rather shows up in bloated Sales, General & Administrative (SGA) accounts.
  • Program Costs are the costs of running ICT programs beyond the costs accounted for in the various cost allocation systems.  These can be the cost of running distributed teams, the cost of low development capability etc.  Such cost coefficients are statistically generated.

On top of all these are the hard costs of ICT.

Borrowing diagrams from Accenture  the solution is to run a 3-tiered cost reduction strategy:

strategic cost management.accenture

After the easy stuff is done, the business must ultimately streamline its processes (and align cost structures accordingly) and then lower it non-discretionary spend.  The key is to (i) see the whole process, (ii) understand the dependencies, and (iii) engage locally.

  • Minimise (Hard Costs) –  Tactical Cost Reduction. Grab the low hanging fruit and take out the obvious costs; the costs in plain sight.  Engage locally with account managers and business unit leaders to reduce headcount but understand and model the dependencies by seeing the whole capability.  The Boston Consulting Group advise that managers proceed on third of a third rule, ie 1/3 of all FTEs are non customer facing and 1/3 of those can be removed without adverse impact on the business.
  • Optimise (Soft & Program Costs) –  Proactive Cost Governance.  This involves detailed spend analysis and process optimisation.  Indirect process costs grow like barnacles on a ship.  The longer they are there the more they are accepted but ultimately they increase the financial drag on a business.  Remove all the invented tasks by modelling the firm’s value chain and seeing where the processes fit into larger business capabilities.  Once this is done executives can optimise the key cost drivers and their inputs.  This improves the delivery model for ICT and enables better demand management.  Accompanying these operational actions the business should improve cost governance.  It can achieve this by removing the management structures around excessive process governance.  This requires a more active and dynamic GRC system but ultimately the business feels a lighter GRC touch.  Most importantly, simplify processes and remove the  ‘cost of complexity‘ ie vertical integration and convoluted workflows which increase process time and transactional costs.

cost reduction level.accenture

  • Re-design (Program & Managerial Costs) –  Strategic Cost Management.  In order to achieve significant and lasting cost reduction benefits the business must lower its discretionary spend.  However, managerial cost structures (which are significant) can only be made redundant when the overall complexity is reduced.  Once this happens shared services may be implemented and rationalised.  The ICT offering can be standardised and the business can create re-usable technology components.  Then the business can change its transfer pricing models and look towards offering the customer-facing SBUs a more sophisticated multi-channel mix of capabilities, ie give them the agility to increase their high-end customer offerings.   Only once this is achieved can the business look towards modernising and streamline technical architectures.

The key is to look at ICT as a capability enabler and not as a business unit in its own right.  ICT should have to justify its very existence.  However, once it does and develops full cost transparency then and only then can it move forward in real partnership with the business.

 

How will enterprise Architecture Reduce Legal Costs? Reply

In mid 2009 I received an e-mail from Mark Hurd, then CEO of Hewlett Packard.  This wasn’t unusual because I was at EDS UK and we all got an e-mail from our new CEO.  He wanted to explain that over and above the 26,000 people he was already getting rid of in the new enterprise there would be further reductions.

Why?

He went on to write that earnings were down 20% so his investors wanted to know when he was getting rid of another 20% of his workforce.  He went on to add that he was resisting their advice as it would hurt us on the rebound.

Clever Mark.

The point of the story is how one determines, precisely and effectively, what are the right parts of your cost structures are the ones to get rid of?  Typical commercial reasoning suggests that the best cost structures to cut are: headcounts, marketing, training, procurement and travel.  These are the easiest but you don’t have to be Lou Gerstner to realise that you shouldn’t cut marketing or travel in a downturn.  Pick up any edition of HBR and you’ll know that you need to focus on core business and cut the rest.

So how do we find core business and what on earth does it have to do with my legal costs?

Have you ever done a push-up?  What muscles do you think are used? Chest? Yep. Triceps? Oh yeah.  What about anterior deltoid? What about the supraspinatus or the infraspinatus or the teres minor? What about the teres major and the suprascapularis? These are all synergistic muscles in the push up that help hold your shoulder girdle stable and stop you toppling over to one side.  Likewise with business.  There are an enormous number of synergistic activities which assist core processes.

Don’t worry we’re getting to the bit about legal costs.

Your core business will be the fundamental raison d’être of your company.  For instance.  You might think that you own a network outsourcing company but when you ask yourself why your company really exists and what it seeks to really achieve, you might find the answer being that it transforms the customer relations of client companies? Now you need to determine what are all the essential processes which support transformation (which we’ll look at another time)After that one must discover the dependent, people, information, systems and infrastructure for these processes.

That’s the easy bit.

Now you need to architect it into some form of commercial reality and make it happen.  Once this beautiful strategy is executed in a new and improved operating model you will be left with a pile of paper which enshrines the agreements you have made with partners to make this reality.  Contracts – and they don’t come cheap.

Did you notice a theme?  I talked thereabove about the seamless architectural process which blends to bring synergy to the design and form of your new business.  The realistic amongst us will know there is always a great crash as the momentum behind any deal brings it into contact with the immovable object of the law.  The beautiful deal we created is then mangled through lawyers until what we wanted is barely recognisable.

What if this horrid legal process was an integrated part of the architectural process?  What if our business architects, our technicians and deal-makers were all joined in a common, collaborative architectural process which derived legal clauses directly from the technical and commercial detail of the deal?  Wouldn’t the contract then become a dynamic and fluid document which formed part of the management of the program?  Wouldn’t the contract(s) be lean, precise and swift to negotiate and put in play?

Welcome to Citadel, where enterprise architecture meets the law.