CXO

Can IT be retooled to maximum effectiveness in a down economy?

Markets worldwide are plunging. Iceland is bankrupt. Your 401(k) is down almost 40%. Is there any kind of silver lining in this mess?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably been following the news of all of our dwindling fortunes as the markets have tanked close to 40% over the past year. While I firmly believe that not one person—economist or government official alike—has a clue as to what happens next with regard to the global economic outlook, do the current market conditions lend themselves to more involvement by IT in the business side of the house? Will other initiatives be accelerated to realize a quicker ROI?

First – why am I asking? Answer: I read an article earlier today from some pundit indicating that he expects IT spending to increase in 2009. So, I started to think about reasons why this may be true. Now, please don't take my points below as gospel on what will happen. These are just a couple of things that came to mind as I was thinking about this issue during a three-hour car ride!

Let me explain my thinking. In the history of "current IT"—that is, the well-connected, high-tech enterprise we now enjoy that wasn't in place in 1987, the time of our last memorable financial crisis—we haven't had an economic disaster of the magnitude that we're facing today. As organizations strive to cut costs in order to remain afloat, let alone profitable, I see the possibility of major changes in organizations to more quickly take advantage of efficiency and business improvement efforts based on technology. For example, depending on how long the current climate remains in place, organizations may begin to rethink the desktop upgrade cycle and begin to take advantage of more cost-effective – and secure – options such as virtual desktops based on less expensive hardware. Of course, initiatives like this usually require some up front capital; as we all know, money is getting hard to come by right now.

Further, will companies accelerate process improvement efforts in order to realize major financial gains due to more efficient processes? If this happens, IT professionals in many organizations would be drawn into significant business discussions in order to make headway on these kinds of efforts. Based on what I've been reading lately and what I see as our eventual results at Westminster College due to our slowly progressing SOA/BPM plans, I'm more convinced than ever that the IT field as a whole is on the cusp of major changes in this direction anyway and the current conditions may speed up the pace. At Westminster College, the promises of cost avoidance and better service to our students are the main drivers in our efforts. Lowering costs and providing better customer service are key drivers at any organization, though.

After 9/11, there was a major uptake of video conferencing equipment and services so that companies could avoid the high cost, risk, and hassle of flying people to meetings. Maybe this financial meltdown will result in companies going on an efficiency binge across the board, from how technical services are provided to how the business is run.

Of course, a lot of companies are already undertaking these kinds of efforts, so this discussion is not applicable to everyone. But, for those of you that may not be to the SOA/BPI/BPM/VDI stage yet, what do you think?

Question: Will the current financial climate result in IT becoming more involved in improving overall business efficiency?

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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