"You've got to be realistic," he says. "There's a danger that you could be suboptimizing for the long term, but if you're concerned that your company might not be here for the long term, it makes sense to make that choice."
3. Slay your SLAs
When dealing with tech requests from the business side, many CIOs just can't say no. The result: internal maintenance and service agreements that go well beyond what's necessary to keep the business running.
"We find a lot of companies spending money on maintenance that doesn't align with their expectations," says Wolke. "If you ask the customer what level of service they want, they always say '24/7.' You have to sit down with them and ask, 'If this system goes down at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, do you really need someone to come out and fix it, or can it wait until 7 a.m. on Monday?'"
John Baschab, managing director of Technisource Management Services, recommends IT managers meet with business stakeholders armed with an a la carte menu of service offerings, backed up by the costs and usage stats for each.
"You want to go in and say something like, 'Our recommendation is we get rid of weekend and deep night support because we're spending a lot of money and we're only fielding four calls per hour,'" he adds. "If you give them the opportunity to pick and choose, you're much more likely to have a successful conversation."
Wolke says rationalizing internal service expectations can also reduce wear and tear on IT staff: "If you're asking people to be covering systems 24/7 or carrying pagers everywhere, you're going to burn out your IT operations staff."
4. Max out your storage
Even though your company's data needs are growing, odds are you probably don't have to invest in more storage now, especially when the ROI is years away.
Richard Clark, CEO of storage software maker APTARE, notes that most enterprises use only 30 to 45 percent of the storage they've already allocated -- leaving significant amounts of what Clark calls "hidden pockets" of unclaimed storage.
"Smart companies will get very analytical in understanding how much storage they actually have available," he says. "Given the enormous investments organizations make in storage, visibility into just how much is really being used -- versus just allocated -- can make a significant difference in cost outlays."
The second half of the equation is clearing out the deadwood, says Sunny Gupta, CEO of Apptio, provider of IT cost optimization solutions.
"Everybody knows this, but it is politically hard to do anything about it," he says. "You need to get people to go through all their network storage or application storage and trash or archive items that are no longer needed. Storage is expensive -- $7 to $12 per gigabyte managed -- and growing at 30 to 50 percent per year. Gaining back a few gigabytes per employee could be a savings of $200,000 or more, depending on the size of your organization."
5. Go open source
The benefits of going open source are well known, as are the risks. The good news is open source software has come a long way toward being enterprise-ready, says Amit Pandey, CEO of Terracotta, makers of an open source clustering product for Java apps.
[ For the best in open source software, check out InfoWorld's BOSSIE award winners. " ]