Another Lean Year for IT

Mentally bracing for the downturn? Your career in IT can still flourish by blending practicality with some technological creativity in your decision making.

As the realization of a recession begins to sink in, we're all faced with the reality that we are simply going to have to do more with less again this year.

Clearly 2008 will be a challenging environment for corporate America. And while sustained top- and bottom-line growth will remain the main objectives for most enterprises this year, we will all need to find ways of meeting these demands with little to no increase in headcount.

Think we're off in this assessment?

Just try submitting that request for added personal this year. Assuming you don't get laughed right out of the office, you're going to have a real tough time convincing senior management that you cannot do without additional staff. At this rate, we'll all be lucky to have a job, let alone a salary increase!

Exaggeration you say? All doom and gloom? OK, let's look at what's on the horizon this year.

Tightened purse strings horizon

We'll all need to put our heads together and do whatever is needed to get by and keep the business going. In an effort to get the creative juices flowing, many companies are offering respectable incentives such as additional vacation time, paid trips, gift cards, and of course, tons of company swag in return for any practical "idea" that you may have developed to help save your business money.

Increasingly, simple and often nontraditional practices are being considered, including moving your computer systems' base to free open-source software versus purchasing additional licensed software applications and operating systems. Businesses will be extending the life of their computers from the average 3 years to 5 years in areas where this approach makes sense.

They'll also look to reuse older versions of the software applications that they already own as an alternative to purchasing the latest and greatest version. It's worth noting that Sarbanes-Oxley related restrictions might apply with this approach.

To keep on this track of thought, travel will be scaled back significantly for most employees. And while we would like to see this cost-cutting approach inspire the use of more videoconferencing systems, sadly it will most likely just mean more phone conferences, some with the use of whiteboards in place of the seemingly more exotic means of remote collaboration.

We'll also see departmental outings eliminated in the coming months. And if it hasn't already, overtime pay will be suspended, and in most cases, it will be regardless of workload or timeline restrictions on pending and future projects. Another thing to be scaled back or eliminated will be management bonuses. And even senior staffers won't be immune.

There is only so much employees can do before the system begins to break down. Unfortunately, most enterprise IT professionals have already been just about belt tightened to near death. If your business is truly in need of cut-backs and "lean" approaches for its survival, then this approach will need to be applied to your entire organization from the top down and not the other way around.

Now for the good news

Fortunately, for most of us who have served in the IT industry for the greater portion of our working lives, cut-backs and lack of personnel is nothing new. The only difference in 2008 is that the rest of the company will see what we've been dealing with for our entire careers.

This means that while IT will continue to support the development and re-use of applications, including the availability of enterprise data sources, we'll also have the leverage and the authority to shoot down frivolous purchase and upgrade requests made by the sales and executive management sectors of our businesses.

As expected, the concept of outsourcing is also being heavily scrutinized this year because of the many shortfalls and failed expectations related to this once seemingly miraculous cost savings approach.

This is the year to tighten up your engagement between IT and your internal business customers. Reach out and bring everyone to the table and let them know what you're thinking. It's going to be hard and honest work.

It's important to remember that it's always easier to stand by and watch your business fade into oblivion but it's hard work to be remarkable and ingenious. It's hard work to tell your senior management staff that they are being intellectually lazy and dangerously accustomed to the old ways.

Moreover, it's hard work to stand out and suggest a seemingly risky approach. And it's even harder work to actually take those risks and capitalize on opportunities in both lean and boom times.

Keywords to success in '08

We leave you with a few key words to success in 2008. When it doubt, ask yourself if your IT decisions are governed by anyone (or some) of the following concepts.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.






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