Using spreadsheets for IT Tools Rationalization? Here’s what you’re missing…
Before we delve into using spreadsheets for IT Tools Rationalization, we need to understand what Tools Rationalization is. The British define rationalization as:
“the action of making a company, process, or industry more efficient, especially by dispensing with superfluous personnel or equipment.
Tools Rationalization is about understanding what you have, what works, what doesn’t, and “dispensing’ with what you don’t need. Every company should be continually rationalizing their tools and gaining benefits from opportunities for consolidation, portfolio optimization, and cost savings. However, to do Tools Rationalization, you need to be mindful of four factors:
1) You need a complete and accurate INVENTORY of your tools
2) You need a detailed PROFILE of “what” each tool has the capability to provide for your organization
3) You need a full understanding of what REQUIREMENTS your organization has
4) You need a way to COMPARE your IT Tool Portfolio to your requirements
There are two key points here. First, you need to understand what the tools do specifically for YOUR organization. Every tool can be deployed differently in different companies, so understanding YOUR configuration and the features you use or do not use is critical for IT Tools Rationalization. Using vendor data sheets are not enough. Every tool needs to be PROFILED to understand how it’s being used. The second is understanding your requirements. This needs to be a process independent of what a vendor tool actually does and must focus on what your organization needs from a tool or set of tools. We see many organizations create their requirements from vendor data sheets as it has been the most readily available information. While this is the easy route, it provides a disservice to the company and the customers it serves as the information in data sheets are designed to serve the vendor and often misses the vital needs of the customer. We highly recommend the people responsible for profiling the requirements NOT be the owners accountable for deploying and maintaining the tools.
Why do IT Leaders rely on spreadsheets for IT Tools Rationalization?
The number one reason is straightforward — it’s perceived as easy. We as humans, are programmed to do the easiest, most efficient action. Everyone knows how to use Excel or Google Sheets; putting in rows of information is simple. Some of us use spreadsheets every single day for complex modeling or even to create contact lists. We grew up on spreadsheets and have become our go-to. In fact, before we started RedMonocle, we used spreadsheets! We had this super collection of spreadsheets that interconnected with Excel charts and graphs all over the place. It was a complex matrix of information that we realized was easy to break and would never be complete. We quickly realized, spreadsheets are useful for only one thing: INVENTORY. Every client we work with has a spreadsheet inventory, which is a good starting point. But, as you can see above, without PROFILE and REQUIREMENTS, you can not do Tools Rationalization. And spreadsheets can not provide on-going analysis as they must be updated manually.
What are spreadsheets missing?
I’m actually a big fan of spreadsheets. I can get lost in a spreadsheet, and my mathematical mind is drawn to using formulas, lookups, and pivot tables. I create spreadsheets for speedy tasks and complex budget planning. I probably use Excel 3-4 days a week. Like I said, big fan.
But, there are considerable limitations in using spreadsheets for Tools Rationalization. First, most companies have tools described as functions like “monitoring in their inventory, such as,” “ITSM,” or “security.” But this creates an assumption that all functions are used equally, and we all know that simply isn’t the case in actual business. There are many types of security tools and they can each do different things, as well as overlap in areas. Understanding the capabilities of each tool (we profile 50-100 for each) and tracking the capabilities your organization is actually using is extremely difficult and takes an inordinate amount of time. It’s hard to get the data into your spreadsheet and nearly impossible to maintain that data as vendor versions change frequently, and finding up to date vendor information comparing version is not only difficult; it’s inconsistent from vendor to vendor. To make matters worse, some update the information they do provide monthly.
Consider rationalizing the contents of your house. You can inventory all your items and realize that you have 15 lamps. It would be easy to say, “we don’t need 15 lamps!” But, those lamps are in different rooms, so if you remove three without the knowledge of where they are and the value of the lighting they provide you might accidentally end up with no light in your living room. Some lamps have different purposes, like a table lamp, a floor lamp, even a reading lamp in your favorite book nook. You see, context matters. Each lamp provides a purpose in a room, and the data sheet from the manufacturer of the lamp will never give the context you need to make a decision. Likewise, if your spreadsheet says you have 15 monitoring tools, understanding the context of how these tools are used (e.g., firewalls, transactions, databases, etc.) matters much. Understanding what a tool can do, that is, its “function,” combined with the capabilities that tool offers and how your organization is using it, is critical to effective IT Tools Rationalization. Spreadsheets simply cannot provide that level of context.
Second, whose job is it to maintain the spreadsheet? Do you have the tool owners maintain the spreadsheet? How does that work when you could have 200 tools and 100 tool owners. Is the spreadsheet stored in Sharepoint? How do you lock cells so one person doesn’t accidentally change another tool owner’s row of information? Just thinking about data integrity gives me a headache. Or, you can have one person “manage” the spreadsheets and chase down tool owners continually trying to get data. But let’s be honest, this is simply unrealistic. It’s incredibly inefficient, exhausting, and frankly, it’s frustrating for everyone involved. So, spreadsheets are terrible for PROFILING tools, making #2 of our definition, virtually impossible. And the same goes for developing REQUIREMENTS.
Why is RedMonocle better than a spreadsheet?
Building off the last section, RedMonocle solves things right off the bat. First, we allow segmented, multi-user access so that Tool Owners can access only the tools they are responsible for and update the tool profile directly. We have validated workflows that reach out to Tool Owners regularly to verify the information. RedMonocle has an entire staff dedicated to continuous updates of its KnowledgeBase of tools providing you with information that is regularly updated and validated. Gone are the days of emails, phone calls, or stopping by people desks to get information from them, RedMonocle does it for you.
We even PROFILE the tools for you! Our Knowledge Base consists of 1,500 infrastructure, operations, and security tools and is continually growing. When you add a tool to your Portfolio, you inherit all the profiles we create and maintain regularly. We work with the vendors to update tool profiles, so you don’t have to. Our analysts save you months of effort.
Here’s where RedMonocle gets fun. We created the coolest REQUIREMENTS generator ever! We have over 5,000 capabilities that your teams can use to generate your requirements. If you are looking to rationalize a set of tools, we even have best-practices templates to generate requirements sets in a click of a button. A click of a button! Requirements owners (remember, we recommend this person is different from Tool Owners) can set and manage their requirements through an easy-to-use GUI with the click of a mouse. You want to build requirements for Cloud Resource Management. Awesome, one click. Honestly, this is so cool, you just have to see it to believe it.
But let’s get to the heart of the matter. Tools Rationalization is really about making decisions. If you want to make your decision-making processes to be “more efficient, by dispensing with superfluous personnel or equipment,” then you need to have actionable information and be able to model options by running scenarios. Like what tools should I get rid of? What happens if I bring in this new tool, can I replace any of these tools? What tools are approaching end-of-life, and how long do I have? If I want to move towards AIOps, what tools will I need? And how does that compare to my current infrastructure?
RedMonocle gives you direct, real-time insight into what tools you should Divest, Investigate, Invest, and Maintain. We tell you where all of your overlaps and gaps are. And we do it based on empirical data. We remove emotion from the IT Tools Rationalization process and replace it with data-driven decision making.
We even have a scenario builder where you can model the impact of bringing in new tools, consolidating instances, or adding new capabilities. Not sure what tools you even need? Our scenario builder can give you a list of all the tools matching your requirements, in an easy to read matrix of what capabilities matched and provides a scorecard of each tool.
And here’s the exciting part — RedMonocle is just getting started. We are iterating the platform every month to bring in even more analytics, cost tracking, contract management, usability rating, automation and more.
How much work is it to go from a spreadsheet to RedMonocle?
Now, I’m sure some people may think after reading this, I’m against spreadsheets. But I’m a big fan, seriously! In fact, we here at RedMonocle are happy when you have a tools inventory in a spreadsheet. Because we can import your spreadsheet to AUTOMATICALLY build your Portfolio and start the PROFILING process. We can literally get you through Steps 1 and 2 in hours. Just consider how long it would take with a spreadsheet. Weeks? Months? How many people who it take? How many meetings? We get it. It’s time to have a better solution to spreadsheets. That’s why we created RedMonocle.
In fact, send us your spreadsheet, grab lunch, and we’ll be ready with when you get back. No joke.
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