Making big IT decisions in an uncertain 2017


New year, new you technology. To kick off 2017 right, we’re here to enlighten you on all the technology trends, disruptors and themes this next trip around the sun will bring. (Check out what happened in 2016 here.) Each week this January, we’ll share a new blog post from our experts about what to expect in 2017 and how you and your business can prepare. Happy New Year! 

Which IT uncertainties are keeping you up at night? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter—use #TechIn2017. 


There is, by all accounts, a lot of political and economic uncertainty as we've entered 2017. And faced with uncertainty, most businesses tend to hunker down and attempt to mitigate the associated risks. As a technology leader, that often means making some unpleasant tradeoffs. Sure, you’d like to get that big infrastructure project underway, but that legacy application running the entire business may dominate your attention as budgets get tighter and business goals become more demanding.

Most IT budgets are expected to hold steady at best, and in some cases contract by as much as 5%. That’s going to mean making smarter decisions on how that money is spent. Additionally, staffing is expected to remain at the same levels, and that means IT leaders should be looking to maximize the value they receive from their existing staff. Let's take a look at four ways you can navigate this uncertain IT landscape in 2017:

Just because headcount doesn't grow, doesn't mean skills can't

The staffing issue can seem like the most intractable, but it’s potentially the easiest. This year will be an excellent time to look not only at your staff’s existing skills, but at their ability to grow. Can they learn new technologies, new approaches and new efficiencies that will help offset the lack of budget growth? Can they spin up on automation, Agile, DevOps and other techniques that can increase the efficiency of the IT team? They’ll need education, sure, but just-in-time, on-demand education is one of the least expensive things in the industry right now, particularly when you use training tools that let you assess each learner’s progress to ensure a return on the training spend.

Hardware spending: Past practices vs. current needs

This is an area where you can decide if what you've got in place is acutally what you currently need. For example, spending on servers can average around 17%. That’s a lot of money, and it’s money that has to be depreciated as a capital investment for five years or more (in most companies). Would cloud spending – an operational expense that’s easily expanded or contracted based on demand – be a better place to put that same money? It’s a discussion worth having with your CFO as you decide where to channel precious resources, and it’s a reason to make sure your team is skilled up to support that kind of hybrid approach to IT.

Software spend: A large chunk of change 

Software project spending eats up around a third of many IT budgets, and are another place where efficiencies can be achieved. Agile approaches to software development, automated unit testing, Continuous Integration pipelines and other techniques can give software projects the ability to produce more consistent, more predictable results for the money spent. Again, it’s a place where team skills help make it happen.

Cloud solutions: A tactical tool 

Cloud becomes an important solution to manage business risk. An on-prem messaging and collaboration infrastructure can represent tons of capital investment, sunk human resources expenses and ongoing maintenance, regardless of how many people are using the systems. Moving that function to the cloud, however, removes almost all of the internal overhead, freeing up staff for other, more value-added projects. Cloud services can expand and contract as needed, with an immediate cost savings if you have to cut back on the number of people using the service. Other cloud-based services – malware filtering and security, application hosting, disaster recovery services and more – can help reduce the overall cost of ownership of these services and make your IT estate more agile and responsive to sudden changes in the business landscape.

Calling the shots in an unpredictable IT landscape

If there are two themes for IT in 2017,  they should be smarter teams and agile spending. Having a team that can support whatever the company throws at it – including new and novel computing approaches – gives you the flexibility to go outside the box”when managing risk and meeting company needs. Agile spending – including pay-as-you-go cloud services – can help you reduce spending without worrying about whether or not you could support a sudden business opportunity or growth cycle. So, the moral of this year's uncertain story becomes skill up your team and scale back on spend in the right areas. 

Learn more: Technology trends of 2017


*Statistics from Spiceworks Annual Report on IT Budget and Tech Trends*



Don Jones

Don Jones' broad IT experience comes from 20 years in the business, with a strong focus on Microsoft server technologies. He's the author of more than 45 technology books, including titles on administration and software development, and writes monthly columns for the industry's leading periodicals. He's an in-demand speaker at technical conferences and symposia worldwide, and is widely recognized as one of the top trainers in the Microsoft sector.