The political scene has been chaotic in recent months, both in Washington D.C. and in Hartford. One of the recent revelations is that Connecticut municipalities are facing a $50 million budget cut.
According to Governor Daniel P. Malloy’s office, the cuts include $20 million in unassigned cuts to municipalities (which likely means a $20 million reduction in education funding) and a cut of $30 million in grants for local construction and related projects. As Connecticut townships tighten their belts, the IT department has to become more creative with how they are going to allocate their reduced budgets.
At the same time, IT is becoming an increasingly important part of any city’s operations. Computers support a variety of civil operations including finance, payroll, emergency services, law enforcement, and a host of other services. School districts will be especially hard hit. Computers and computer networks are becoming a central part of education as well, as more school systems adopt laptops and notebook computers for the classroom.
While every town will be affected in some fashion, the education cuts will have the biggest impact on Connecticut’s more affluent communities. Greenwich, for example, will lose $1.3 million which is a 90 percent cut to its Education Cost Sharing grant. Hartford, which is one of the state’s poorest cities, will lose only $250,000 or 0.1 percent of education grants. And these cuts are on top of an $84 million cut that was already implemented for the current fiscal year.
With additional budget cuts looming, municipal IT departments will be forced to do more with less, and to make existing equipment last longer. While this strategy is a necessity, it also has risks.
Spend Today to Save Tomorrow
The challenge with technology is that it is constantly changing. Moore’s Law basically states that computing power essentially doubles every two years. This axiom has consistently proven to be more or less accurate, and it has a ripple effect. As computers become faster, they require faster computer networks, faster routers, faster wireless systems, better monitors, updated software, and so on.
Making do with what you have works with many things, but less so with technology. Technology upgrades tend to affect interdependent systems. For example, if you fail to improve your hardware, you don’t have the processing power for the next-generation operating system, which means new generations of critical software may not operate as well. Consider the problems with running outdated Windows Server software. Windows Server 2003 is no longer supported, yet there are still plenty of Windows Server 2003 systems in service. Should any of these users decide to run newer software, chances are they will need to upgrade their hardware and their OS at the same time. What begins as a single software installation turns into a major upgrade.
What’s more, many organizations are still paying for software licenses or software-as-a-service deployments for applications they no longer use. Failing to properly assess current systems will cost more money in the long run.
Where Can You Downsize or Outsource?
In addition to extending the useful life of existing systems, it could be the right time to consider decommissioning or downsizing existing systems. Outdated equipment and software could be costing you more to maintain than new systems. Consider the costs of maintaining outdated servers and systems over time versus buying new hardware. Another truism is that technology becomes less expensive over time, so you might be able to get the same server horsepower in a newer unit for a fraction of the price you paid a few years ago.
Also, consider alternative technologies to save budget dollars. For example, is your wireless network running out of bandwidth or just overloaded? Wi-Fi technology is improving all the time, and you may need more access points or systems hardware with a stronger wireless signal. Network upgrades can be very affordable for schools that qualify for e-rate funding.
And what about outsourcing routine services? For example, IT help desk staff spend at least 50 percent of their time on printer-related issues. Also, consider the amount of time spent on other routine tasks, such as systems backup, software upgrades, and setting up new workstations. Outsourcing these responsibilities to a managed services provider can save staff time and reduce operating overhead.
When facing an IT budget crisis, a managed services provider can be an invaluable asset. As an objective third party, they can assess your IT operation, identify areas of inefficiency or unnecessary cost, and show you where to save on budget. They also can do a cost analysis on various aspects of IT operations to provide hard figures on cost savings; data that can be invaluable when you have to justify costs to senior management.
So, as you look at IT budgets for town government and school systems, consider enlisting expert help to show you where you can save. A good managed services provider can serve as your IT efficiency expert, assessing your current systems and operations and identifying changes that can help save your budget.