By Eric Rinker – Technical Consultant

In today’s technology-driving company, computing infrastructure plays a critical role. It is also considered a cost-center, so there is always the push to spend less but get the same (or more) in return. An often missed but vital tool to accomplish this is to implement a standardization regime.

Most IT/Operation departments are spending their time implementing the brand new product out of engineering or fixing problems from the previous product’s accelerated deployment process. This often leaves little time to implement improvements or make changes to existing environments. The key to solving this dilemma is to minimize the addition of new tasks when new products or services are introduced.

For any deployed solution, there are multiple factors that encompass its total cost of ownership (TCO):

  • Original cost of hardware and/or software
  • Upgrade cost of hardware and/or software
  • Maintenance
  • Technical support
  • Training

Whenever the same effort can be utilized across multiple solutions, the economies of scale allow for more efficient use of equipment and personnel which keeps money from leaving the company coffers. By limiting the amount of difference in the infrastructure, a limit is also placed on the effort required to support that infrastructure.

To drill this home, let look how standardization affects specific TCO factors:

The original cost of hardware or software:

A portion of the savings from this TCO factor is the most obvious to the non-technical. The more money spent with a vendor, the easier it is to get a good discount. What is not so obvious is the fact that the less difference in hardware, the less extra gear is required.

Take for example a company with multiple offices in countries across the world that supported their laptop base by having a spare part available in each office. If they had one or two models across the entire company from one vendor, then they would only need a few power supplies and hard drives available to be able to quickly repair an individual’s system should one of these parts be the problem. If however, they kept every laptop brand from every acquisition in use, the cost to keep spare parts on hand would exponentially grow. While the initial outlay may be hard for finance to swallow when it comes to replacing non-standardized vendor hardware during a company merger, the reduced cost to support those laptops over time will make your running budgets tighter.

Upgrade cost of hardware or software:

As with the original purchase, the more units purchased the less an individual unit will cost. But with upgrades, there is an additional aspect that will affect TCO. The time and resources required to roll out the old and roll in the new hardware or software. By limiting diversity, the possible complications and required contingency plans will shrink and less effort will be required to implement.

Technical Support / Training:

The difference between the Technical Support and Training TCO factors is the audience the effort is applied to, but the way in which savings is garnered is the same. With a limited set of hardware or software, the required skill set of the support staff and the user base is diminished. Thus, the effort and expense required to train either group are also lessened.

Standardization can make a business run smoother, but its application should not prevent needed technologies from being introduced into the infrastructure. Sometimes a stand-alone solution is the best way to accomplish the task at hand. Often, these solutions are the fore-runner for the new standard that will be applied to the next generation of the infrastructure.

When you create a structure that is flexible enough to handle the majority of cases with one method and can still incorporate the one-of-a-kind systems when needed, you will be able to benefit from the TCO savings that Standardization provides without preventing your business from capturing profits.

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