Do you feel it? Do you hear that rumbling getting closer? Companies closing their branches or downsizing their production line and having to lay off employees are in the news every single day. There is a ripple effect and your own organization is not sheltered from what is happening around you.
Sooner rather than later, CFOs and CEOs will start looking at ways to bring expenses down until the business picks up again. After leadership training, internal communications and wellness programs, they will turn to IT, because that’s where a large chunk of the budget goes. You have to be ready to face the Inquisition because as much as your IT organization is running like a Swiss watch, there is suddenly the suspicion that there are too many people who are paid too much to support those too-expensive virtual servers, SANs, backup systems and Web sites.
Do your homework
A previous article discussed how important it is to implement a formal IT governance structure and how it can get you closer to the executives that will decide your fate. In a nutshell, governance is about defining who has the rights to make IT decisions, and users must be part of the decision process. After all, it’s their money and you are spending a large chunk of it.
Know where you are going. When Alice met the Cheshire Cat at a crossroad, she asked the cat ‘Which way should I go?’. The cat replied with a grin “It depends where you want to go.” Alice said, “I do not know!” The answer was clear: “Then it does not matter which way you choose to go, does it?” If you do not know where you are going, then someone will show you which way is the door — pure and simple. Developing an IT plan or roadmap based on real business needs that includes a three- to five-year investment plan in systems and infrastructure shows that you and your team are serious about supporting the future of your company.
Priorities. A good IT governance structure in which everyone is happily making key decisions on IT priorities is a godsend when the company is running smoothly and when the bottom line shows profits. It gets more difficult and people get more aggressive when red ink starts to flow. Get ready to show leadership and to provide the board an expert opinion about what is important for the company and what was, last year, a great idea that now must be set aside for better days.
Bath water and babies. The shortsighted CIO will cancel all system development projects and downsize the core functions staff. The smart CIO will sit down and look at each project with a long-term perspective. There might be an immediate saving by cancelling a project, but what will we lose when the economy rebounds? Will we be ready to overtake all those who were in too much of a hurry to show savings?
Beware of sharks
The Opportunists. You have been outsourcing part of your IT operations because it made sense. For sure, sharing the support cost of a 24/7 operation with others in a shared services era is a good idea. It got you some Brownie points with senior management. But you have elected to retain some critical functions under your control for strategic, practical and economic reasons. Now your outsourcer is in a bind and he sets up a meeting with your CEO to convince her that outsourcing the rest of the farm is the way to go to drive those unbelievably high IT costs down. At half the cost of your current set-up, who could resist?
The Predators. Be careful about the information you are willing to share with your peers. Social engineering is not only about getting hold of your online banking password. Some people out there want your job. Who could blame them? Values and ethics do not pay the mortgage. Watch your back. If you have not been able to make enough friends among your peers within the company, maybe is it a good time to start going to the cafeteria and share a bite with them. But don’t go overboard.
The good deals. I do not like the people who feed on other people’s misfortune, but let’s be honest. Suppliers have fewer clients and they are willing to deal. Saving $10,000 or $100,000 on a new product or on a maintenance contract is nothing to be ashamed of. It allows the supplier to stay in business and it gets your TOC down. It is a win-win proposal.
You got that CIO, Director of IT or IT Manager job because you had superior skills than the average bear. Now is the time to show what you are capable of.
Business Leader. Try to immerse yourself as much as possible in the business and learn the challenges. You and your team are no longer a service provider. You might be the only way for that business to survive. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
People leader. There are two things that motivate people to work as a team: They either have a common goal or a common enemy. You might have to say goodbye to team members because their skills and projects do not fit anymore into the corporate plans. It is always painful. But for those whom you have chosen to keep, the challenge of a common goal — getting the organization survive that crisis — is worth the fight.
With a good understanding of what you and your organization are facing, and a good IT plan, there is no reason you cannot survive the economic storm.
Daniel Marion is a Director of Information Technology with more than 25 years of IT management experience. If you would like to share your experience on IT management, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org@videotron.ca