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Managing Equipment: The Right Mix

Managing internal technology projects as if they were investments in a portfolio of assets undoubtedly is a growing trend on Wall Street. But the portfolio approach hasn't stopped there. Now, Wall Street firms are applying portfolio management techniques to IT hardware and software.

It should come as little surprise that firms are focusing on managing IT equipment efficiently and creatively, as information technology often is the second largest chunk of their budgets (after the people they employ). Chief information and technology officers are reexamining their IT options, including decisions to buy or lease, to lease for three years or four years, and to install new or used equipment. Additionally, firms now are considering the disposal of IT assets to comply with privacy and environmental regulations, often negotiating to include the costs in vendor contracts.

"IT portfolio management means looking at financing options and technology upgrades on a regular basis to maximize their return," explains Mike Ross, vice president of IT portfolio management at Relational, a Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based IT-asset portfolio management company.

IT decisions usually have two components, according to Jim Matteoni, chief technology officer with Kansas City, Mo.-based UMB Bank, the principal affiliate bank of $7.8 billion UMB Financial Corp. First, there is the obvious technology component, which involves understanding the firm's needs and going into the marketplace to find the right solution - a duty that is right up the CTO's alley. The second component, after selecting a vendor, is determining how to structure a deal (e.g., buy versus lease) most cost-effectively, a process that can include weighing the costs of the hardware/software, maintenance and disposal. Such duties are more in line with the expertise of a chief financial officer, Matteoni suggests.

It Takes Two

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