IT managers need a detox year

Rather than taking 12 months to install new products, IT pros should try a year-long purchasing holiday

For an IT manager, taking delivery of a new piece of software for the office should be a highlight of the job. Reality is quite different. Research this week showed that most companies leave their shiny purchase inside its shrink-wrap for six months, and then take another six months to leisurely roll it out.

This behaviour may look frivolous, but in today's environment it's very understandable. In many cases, the real mistake was in buying the software in the first place.

There aren't many examples of IT purchases that couldn't comfortably be put off for another 12 months. Firms without a firewall shouldn't hang around, ditto anyone still paying for an ISDN line or running a Windows NT network. For them, time has run out.

For the rest of us, there's a much better way of using the IT department's budget for this year — use it to get more out of what you've already got.

Take a look around your company's systems. If you've paid for a swanky new IP phone system, can you honestly say that your people are actually using those expensive features? Rather than wasting hours with an IT consultant keen to sell you Bloatware 8.1, you could spend that time on internal training.

Instead of mentally covering your ears the next time you hear a user swearing at their email client, consider getting one of your staff to knock up some genuinely helpful advice on coping with Outlook's little foibles.

And if you have the Orange sales team on the line pushing the benefits of mobility, tell them that you're taking a year off from the spending cycle. It'll give them time to stop fleecing customers through roaming charges.

Of course, not spending budget can cause problems down the line. IT managers who do without buying new technology in one year can have the devil's own task in wringing any money out of their board next year for new products. So, start by just freezing one sector, be it telecoms, software or IT services, and spend that money elsewhere

Or, just imagine you're leaving your wallet in your pocket for a year as a paper exercise. Many companies were forced to do this during the early years of this decade, but this time you'll be doing it on your terms.

Even if you are in a position to splash the cash this year, that's no reason to let your suppliers know that. Dangle the idea of a detox year before them, and watch them buck up their ideas. The idea of a year without any shiny new toys might seem sad to you, but to them it's a nightmare.