The pace of digital transformation is accelerating, as businesses look to fully harness technology to enable deep and lasting changes. But for many IT strategy leaders, the grim reality is that they will have to deliver significant cost savings from across their existing applications and infrastructure landscape to release funding.

Many businesses have spent decades trapped in the “70/30” position of spending 70 per cent of their IT budgets on running and maintaining their environments, with just 30 per cent left to invest in new projects. Outsourcing, offshoring and centralisation have delivered some gains in reducing “lights-on” costs. But this has often been offset by the constantly expanding technology environment, as new applications are developed, new cloud services are spun up, and new layers of integration and custom development are added.

Cloud-based services have helped many businesses transfer the burden of physical infrastructure maintenance and operation to their vendor. But the challenge in migrating to hybrid cloud environments is ensuring that the move towards on-demand resources doesn’t result in cloud bill shock — and that management costs relating to orchestration, security and performance don’t go through the roof. A recent survey by industry analyst firm teknowlogy Group found that more than three-quarters of senior IT and business decision-makers named budget management as a key challenge to their hybrid cloud strategies.

Many IT leaders have already made the big plays, such as data centre consolidation and paying commodity rates for such areas as legacy applications maintenance or desktop support. Here are four ways organisations can deliver the next level of cost savings to reinvest in more strategic projects.

  1. Leave cloud management to the robots. Businesses have been dealing with the sprawl of cloud services ever since the adoption of hyperscale platforms across different departments exploded. One approach has been to implement orchestration platforms or partners to provide greater visibility into expenditures. But tools are now available to automate key aspects of the governance process, such as scheduling the right level of cloud resources to become available at the right time to support workload demands. These tools are increasingly not just focused on the infrastructure layer, but also help drive automation across the application stack. Tool vendors such as Yotascale, Turbonomic and CloudSqueeze are increasingly leveraging machine learning to make this automation smarter, and the platforms themselves also offer analytics and visualisations (AWS Cost Explorer, Azure Cost Management).
  2. Get smarter about service management. IT Service Management (ITSM) is going through a step change as artificial intelligence (AI) makes its mark. Chief information officers (CIOs) have used ITSM platforms to help them run, monitor and repair their environment more efficiently, but many have struggled to automate end-to-end processes. They face too many siloes running different task-based automation tools focused on specific aspects of service management. But now many companies are reducing the time spent on pinpointing the root causes of incidents by leveraging platforms that can both provide insight and also help them take a more preventative approach. Intelligent service management platforms can retain operational knowledge in intelligent objects and use continuous machine learning to identify potential issues before they occur.
  3. Enhance DIY workplace support. Many businesses are trying to support increasingly flexible working patterns by offering more diverse devices and services — but support teams are challenged with maintaining or improving quality, while staying on top of costs. Amazon has shown how the provision of high-quality customer service at low cost is possible through the use of self-service options and the automation of service routines based on deep analysis of user data. Similar models are entering the mainstream of IT support with web portals offering a wide range of smart, self-service options — which could include links to relevant video guides on YouTube, as well as chatbot services — easing the burden on traditional help desks.
  4. Rethink security defences. Many businesses need to rethink how they protect themselves in a growing cyber threat landscape. Adding layer upon layer of perimeter defences has created a substantial licensing burden and typically provides a poor experience, since users are forced to navigate multiple password barriers to access key systems and data. A growing number of chief information security officers (CISOs) are putting the user at the heart of the next phase of their cyber strategies and exploring how biometric technology and contextual and behavioural analytics can help them break the cycle of perimeter accumulation while delivering a better, less-intrusive user experience.