Four tactics for surviving the doom and gloom

Times are hard. The economy is in the toilet. Don't let IT slow down -- now is the time to show what you are made of! Gibbs has four steps for surviving the downturn.

OK. Enough already! I've had it with all of the economic doom and gloom. Sure, the market sucks. Sure our 401k's are in the toilet. Sure, the government is spending our money and our children's money (and probably our children's children's money), but really – I mean really – how much of a wuss are you going to be?

Here's what I think many IT shops are doing wrong: They see the economic downturn as a time to hunker down, a time to dig in, reduce spending, put new programs and initiatives on hold and batten down the hatches hoping they can last out the storm.

Wrong. Now's the time to let the other guy -- the competition -- be the wuss.

Let the competition chicken out. Let them try to reduce operation costs and compromise their business. With luck they'll just bleed away their forward momentum and wallow in their self-invented slough of despond while you get to eat their lunch. And their dinner.

If you're smart, will take this as an opportunity to not only keep but gain forward momentum, and to do so you're going to have keep spending. Not irrationally, but in line with doing what you are supposed to be doing.

Here's what we all need to realize: IT isn't a luxury, it isn't something that's nice to have, it is the only engine that can power the corporate bus. So, here are my four tactics to help IT survive the downturn

1. Fight for your budget. You know what's going to happen: The CEO and or the CFO are going to come to you and try to put on the thumbscrews as if IT costs were the whole problem.

They'll be whining "You've got to reduce spending," but don’t let them get to you, especially if the cuts they want aren't across the board! Even then, you know there's a level of budget reduction at which IT can't do what it is supposed to do, and without IT you know your business is toast. A nonplayer.

You need to ensure your budget is in line with corporate income but don’t allow short-term deficits to drive expenditure. Just because the CEO has planned a sales meeting in the Bahamas doesn't mean that in financially strapped times IT should wind up, in effect, paying for the sales team to drink pina coladas.

2. Search for efficiencies. The prospect of unemployment focuses the mind wonderfully, and your team needs to realize that making IT more efficient and effective is the best route to job security.

3. Expose the inefficiencies in lines of operations. You own the data. You have access to every piece of information about operations that is worth having. Use it.

If, for example, manufacturing is missing an opportunity such as not optimizing their supply chains or they are holding too much raw material, rat 'em out. Make sure the opportunity for improvement is visible and define a solution. Sure, it's all getting very political, but it's your livelihood on the line.

4. Don't slow down. If you have projects underway, get 'em done. Don't give the business lines an excuse to claim they don't have the tools. In fact, you work to make them admit, publicly, that not only do they have the tools, but that they work and work right. In tough times the blame game is the game that everyone loves to play, so make damn sure you're not in anyone's firing line.

Make no mistake, we are in bad times. Things are likely to get worse before they get better, but it is times like these that test men's souls and fortitude. So, are you going to be a man or a mouse? Or a wuss?

Shameless Plug: I will be keynoting a series of Network World/Oracle events on identity management in 10 cities over the next couple of months. Check out the schedule and come and say "hello."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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