I was at the Gartner Data Center Conference two weeks ago in a session that was focused on the economy. It seems as much as I wanted it to be different, Gartner’s data still points to an uncertain economy where IT budgets remain tight and IT cost reduction is still a high priority.

Most of us who are either in or around IT know that as much as two thirds to three quarters of the total IT budget goes to “keeping the lights on”. CIOs and their business customers both wish those ratios were lower so that IT can spend more time innovating to grow the business. Having been immersed in all things application performance monitoring (APM) for over a decade, my mind wandered to how APM can help CIOs get their wish.

The fact is, APM solutions can significantly lower operating expenses and/or help shift existing IT Operations Management (ITOM) staff from “run” activities to innovation activities.

Modern APM tools automate much of the application performance monitoring effort and boost the efficiencies of business-critical applications and staff productivity, reducing the costs of IT operations. More specifically these tools simplify the identification of current and potential problems, reduce the number of critical issues and streamline the process of fixing issues that do arise.

APM solutions like Foglight from Quest Software also provide the ability to consolidate multiple monitoring tools down to one or two. With fewer tools to manage and more efficient monitoring processes, IT staff can be re-directed to other projects. For example, Spherion, a leading recruiting and staffing company that employs more than 300,000 people annually enhanced the efficiency of their billing process from two to three days to six to eight hours by using APM. Their staff now spends the time saved working on other critical projects, instead of routine tasks.

The complexity of application architectures will continue to rise, and using an APM solution to manage service and end-user performance from your applications is one of the best investments you can make. These solutions can deliver significant, positive ROI with a short payback—one of the most important metrics CFOs use in evaluating technology investments. The direct benefits provided by APM solutions result in savings in staffing, time and overall costs that can be realized almost immediately. These include reduced hardware, support staffing, consulting costs, and reduced SLA penalties.

Controlling IT spending is still a high CIO priority, especially if the budget can be shifted from “keeping the lights on” to innovation to grow the business. The right application performance monitoring solutions can provide significant measurable value to the organization, with especially quick payback coming from mitigating the risk of application downtime and reducing the frequency of application incidents and mean time to resolution. Further savings and improvements in productivity can be realized by leveraging application management solutions that automate daily monitoring and problem resolution tasks.