Mar 16 2009

Managing Demand

Lee Copeland
Photo: Orlando Copeland

End users — love ’em or hate ’em, they’re an integral part of working in IT. The most darling distributed app or beefed up desktop does nothing without an end user accessing the data or powering up the computer. And whether caving in to their demands or saving them from themselves, every IT chief worth his or her salt has mastered the fine skill of negotiating boundaries, policy and expectations with end users, who wear titles ranging from CEO to associate bottle washer.

BizTech recently polled our readers on what tops their end users’ wish lists this year. End users want to boot up their PCs faster, hoard more data on secure devices, print from their own personal printers, and score a brand-new smartphone.

Emboldened Requests

We also asked whether end-user demand was putting additional pressure on IT to roll out new smart devices faster than established refresh cycles. A resounding 44 percent of readers responded with a definite yes. When Phil Leiter, the IT chief at hedge fund Cumberland Associates, who wrote BizTech’s BlackBerry Bold review (see here), saw the poll results, he shook his head. “Those are the folks I feel sorry for,” Leiter lamented. “In the eight years since smartphones have been out, I’ve never seen anything like this. “They want this phone, and I don’t blame them.”

Yet, in today’s economic climate, some end-user demands won’t be met because of drastically curtailed IT budgets. When circumstances dictate cutting costs, IT has a great opportunity to demonstrate its value by milking additional mileage from existing systems.

And what about opportunities to roll out IT products or practices that are environmentally friendly? There are numerous products and best practice options with strong efficiency gains at competitive price points, such as video conferencing, server virtualization and power management tools. For more ideas, see here, here, here and here.

Which statement best characterizes your company’s 2009 technology budget, relative to last year?

4% We’re dramatically increasing our IT spending.
14% We’re slightly increasing our IT spending.
21% Technology spending will be flat.
23% We’re making minor reductions in IT spending.
15% We’re making dramatic cuts to our IT spending.
23% We’re purchasing IT only on an “as needed” basis.

Source: CDW Poll of 299 BizTech readers

Curbing Demand

Finally, while green technology options mature and gain market share, so does the concept of a “fifth fuel” — energy efficiency. We spoke with four unique startups that are well down the road to hastening better and cleaner energy consumption in notebook batteries, solar panels, bio-fuels and electric-utility services. Our spotlight on Boston-Power, Konarka, Mascoma and Silver Spring Networks starts here.

Silver Spring, for example, develops smart-grid technology that will allow utilities and consumers to gauge energy usage and costs in real time. Early studies indicate that providing consumption and rate data to consumers will lessen demand by about 5 to 15 percent, says Rick Nicholson, vice president of research for Energy Insights, a division of market research firm IDC.

If you’re looking to green when and where you can, hopefully these efforts will help improve the efficiency of your operations, and also stem demand.

Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief