Most ICT spending is ‘dead money’: Gartner

Majority of tech dollars go on 'keeping the lights on', analyst says

Claiming that IT spending is not contributing to business growth, a senior Gartner figure says eight out of every ten dollars spent is “dead money”.

Gartner fellow and managing vice president Daryl Plummer says IT leaders need to demonstrate business value.

“We say ‘dead money’ because, while it is keeping the lights on, it isn’t directly contributing to your business growth or enhancing your competitive advantage,” Plummer says.

“In today’s environment, any corporate function that doesn’t contribute to growth or competitiveness is ultimately expendable. Your placement of resources is more critical than ever to your ability to deliver the growth and competitive advantage that your CEO is expecting.”

Plummer says at least two-thirds of all IT spending is just to sustain the business, not to change or transform it.

“The investments allocated to do new things, to change the business, are usually low, no more than 20%, and the investment in innovations which could transform the business is even less,” he says.

“The challenge for IT leaders is to get their budget from 80% “keeping the lights on” to 60% or less, so they can use that money in new ways to drive growth.”

Part of the problem is a lack of collaboration between business and IT, he says.

A recent Gartner survey showed that half of CIOs think business doesn’t know what it wants or doesn’t collaborate with IT.

Gartner vice president Audrey Apfel says IT departments have to take the initiative to start spending their budgets differently.

“IT leaders need to think differently about how to make the right investment decisions and to measure their value,” Apfel says.

Gartner has identified three ways IT can spend their dollars differently.

The first is intelligent reinvestment.

“When IT leaders save real money, immediately tag it for future investment in a particular area or against a particular strategic business goal; don’t just cut costs,” Plummer says.

The second strategy identified by Gartner is to “seize the day”.

“In some very key business initiatives, IT can and should lead. For some of these top initiatives, IT organisations have the skills in these areas, so they shouldn’t wait for tomorrow. They should seize the day,” Apfel says.

“Finally, make the connection. Make sure value is measured, discussed and managed — not in discrete project packets with unsuitable metrics such as return on investment (ROI), but with an eye [to] linking and integrating the technological past, present and future for your enterprise.”

Gartner says the focus should be on disciplines that ensure IT assets are well managed with more effective oversight and mechanisms.

These include: leading change; governance; programme and portfolio management; architecture and risk management.

Apfel says if an IT leader’s infrastructure is inconsistent, and that person’s architecture and project and portfolio management aren’t working, then governance will never work.

“[That person] won’t be considering the right questions, let alone making the right decisions,” she says.

“If these leaders can’t manage change they can’t make the business investments pay off because, even if the technology works, the business won’t use it. Lastly, if a company can’t manage risk, they open themselves [up] to catastrophe,” she says.