Once upon a time I studied economics. Listening to commentators telling us how bad things are and how much worse they are set to become makes me think about two things. First it is very easy to talk the economy into a downward way of thinking. Second, and more important, the difference between a recession and a run-away boom is about 5% of the turnover of the economy. Jobs are being lost, but 95% of people who had jobs in the best times will still have them in the worst times. More companies will go under (which you can choose to see as a clearing out) but most companies will survive.
Which isn’t to say this is going to be a comfortable year. I think some companies are going to take hard look at where they are spending their money and what generates a return and what doesn’t. And if you work in IT pre-emptively rating your group’s performance in a few basic areas seems smart.
- Are we doing all we can to help make our people more productive ?
- Is IT helping us connect with our customers ?
- Is IT efficient and cost effective of itself ? And does iy help or hinder business responsiveness ?
Productivity almost speaks for itself. Failing to invest (in the guise of saving money) can mean slowly bleeding to death. When investment funding is plentiful a business can invest in risky projects – some will fail but the winners compensate for the losers. When funding is scarce project selection has to be more conservative: success needs to be assured, even if the returns are smaller. Projects which improve productivity are smart.
Connecting with customers: I’m convinced that in hard times the mentality of “there are other places I could spend my money” is stronger. Showing customers why they want to do business with you is something that ALWAYS matters: failing to do it when your competitors are hungrier and customers are choosier can be fatal.
Here’s a couple of examples. I talked about my gas bill in my last post. I’ve tried to use the company’s web site. I’m registered, but no power on earth seems able to get site to recognise the account number on my bill. Contrast this with my broadband provider: I phoned them to say they seemed to be offering a better a tariff and they switched me to it there and then and told me I could save more if I switched to on-line billing: which works and can recall old bills for me. Who do I feel happier with ? Who’s at risk of losing my business ? [I did put my details into a price comparison site, which told me I could save £185 … on the same tariff with the same company, with no special offers … sigh ]
Efficiency goes hand in with agility… If your whole time is spent fire-fighting it means that “just doing the basics” is soaking up all the budget and there’s nothing left for the new stuff. You can’t be agile unless you’re efficient, and Agility matters more when times are tough. Maybe your company will get to buy out a competitor : can you merge their IT into your own? Can you help launch new products or initiatives ? Or are you the anchor holding the company back , part of the reason it couldn’t move with the times and will get taken over. Every time I talk about virtualization I talk about the ease of deploying a new server: it’s both agility and efficiency. Every time I talk about PowerShell I’m thinking about efficiency : Jonathan gave me a bunch of examples for how being able to do something for the business quickly in PowerShell was key to being able to do it at all
There are examples of all of these on a new UK focused web site http://www.microsoft.com/uk/leverage/ with a number of all of these on. But there’s more; with the economy in bad shape companies with strong finances – like Microsoft - can help their customers and trading partners. That page has a link to Microsoft Financing , which offers a way to finance IT projects without the need to encroach on the funding for other things.