Coping with the financial meltdown

If the global economy continues on its apocalyptic way, we’ll soon all be following the lead of fake right-wing pundit Stephen Colbert, who recently confided on his TV show The Colbert Report, “I took all my money out of the market and bought a KFC Snacker”, which he proceeded to eat on air.

Apart from the personal pain inflicted by the financial crisis, few of us will escape some sort of impact on our working lives – and CIOs are no exception.

Already Gartner has slashed its prediction of 5.8 percent IT spending growth in 2009 to 2.3 percent. That’s about a 60 percent drop in their growth estimate, folks, and that’s going to hurt a lot of IT departments – especially those that were counting on additional dollars to fund large-scale core projects.

Gartner does allow that this latest market madness won’t hit IT as hard as the dot-com fiasco of 2001, which over time resulted in budgets being “slashed from mid-double-digit growth to low single-digit growth”. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not in for some pretty painful times ahead. At its recent symposium in Orlando, Gartner delivered the sombre news that hiring freezes and layoffs would likely be top of the agenda items for IT execs to deal with in the coming months.

That’s only the beginning of a long list of challenges, but the good news is that whatever problems come their way, CIOs should be well-equipped to deal with them. One of the biggies, for example, will be ‘doing more with less’, and what CIO hasn’t earned his stripes doing exactly that over the years? Some are even saying that there’s an opportunity in this for CIOs.

Wrote Patrick Thibodeau of Computerworld (US), “… what this downturn may do is create a Welcome Wagon of sorts for technologies that, up until this point, have been considered too risky to adopt.”

Some will no doubt be forced into a measure of risk-taking in order to meet the demands of the business, but I expect the large majority will be quite cautious. They’ll be looking for innovative approaches but they’ll do it with technologies that have a proven track record. If they aren’t already on the table, such things as virtualization, Open Source, SasS and outsourcing may all get a second look.

Luckily for CIOs, IT is a pretty resilient place to be in a recession. Their job may get tougher, but it’s better than being on the breadlines.

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