Five Things IT Must Learn From the Automotive Industry

There is an overriding problem within the IT sector. It goes beyond challenges like the complexity of IT projects, the growth of BYOD, increased workforce mobility or dealing with legacy systems. The big problem in IT is the high degree of waste.

Whether you're talking about waste in terms of cost, network bandwidth, timespent, electricity use, or any number of other measures, ask anyone working in IT whether there is a waste problem and I guarantee they will not only agree, but agree emphatically.

Unfortunately, there is a general acceptance that this is just 'the way things are'; it seems the IT sector doesn't know what to do about this problem or have the incentive to fix it.

However, one has only to look at another field, the automotive industry, to see an example of an industry that is driving innovation and success through a sharp focus on efficiency, speed and performance. Here are the top five things that IT can learn.

1. Advancing its design process, engineering knowledge and technology - It should be no surprise that today's cars are much more sophisticated than the cars of 30, 10 and even two years ago as the automotive industry has been advancing these processes for decades.

Year on year, automotive engineers introduce new technologies, components and complexity to the design and production process, yet cars continue to perform better and more efficiently than before.

However in IT we don't behave in the same way - what we don't do is judge our efforts based on whether we are delivering significantly more IT for the same amount of money or, more importantly, for less. But that is the very textbook definition of efficiency; that 'less in' should equal 'the same or more out'.

2. Efficiency is analogous with sophistication - This is what is lacking in today's IT function. Modern cars have a way of doing everything 'under the hood', while for the driver, the whole experience feels as simple as driving any other car. Such sophistication should be running through the workings of every IT department, central to every process.

IT today is not sophisticated, as we waste energy and resources doing the same job over and over again. We need to stop trying to continuously reinvent the wheel and figure out the same thing that someone else has already spent time working out. Sophistication in IT is about capturing and codifying complex processes and creating software so it can be repeated again, and again, and again.

The irony is that IT teams are failing to use computers for the very purpose they were designed for: to speed up and automate complex or lengthy processes. Humans are not good at repeating things, but it's where computers excel.

3. Efficiency is a choice - Being efficient is an easy choice to make if you're looking to buy a car. The progress in design and development within the automotive industry means that fuel efficiencies can easily co-exist with technology and high performance.

But it's not an obvious choice to make for today's IT departments. Very few CIOs have a specific objective to reduce waste and make IT run more efficiently and other tactical measures such as meeting project deadlines and rolling out new software soon take the spotlight.

Like the automotive industry, IT needs to be making an active decision to become more sophisticated.

4. No drag on efficiency - Automotive engineers have derived maximum aero efficiency with very low drag. IT can do the same by eliminating unnecessary infrastructure, servers and software, freeing up budget and manpower to create a fast and agile IT environment.

By applying intelligent bandwidth throttling, IT data never competes with business data and the existing infrastructure is used to distribute software, operating system upgrades and deployments, removing the need for branch servers or desk-side visits.

5. Speeding up carbon reduction - Fuel efficiency cuts the carbon footprint and reducing miles per gallon is something that the automotive industry prides itself on.

Carbon reduction hasn't been a focus for IT departments despite the fact that effective PC power management can drastically reduce energy consumption by up to $36 per PC per year, cutting the cost of utility bills and reducing CO2 emissions.
It's time for IT professionals to start challenging the status quo. Let's stop accepting the waste problem in IT and start doing something about it.

The first hybrid car won at Le Mans in June 2012, but the real winner was new technology that enabled this game-changing feat. The tools to remove unnecessary technology cost from the business did not exist before for the IT department, but they do now.