Just about every CIO wants and needs more staff.  Most IT departments have major back logs of work so adding additional staff is always a welcome event.  After quite some time and a significant amount of time spent making the case for new staff, I received approval to hire another programmer.  My small staff and I quickly started making plans to put the new person to good use and I started work with HR to get the new position advertised and filled.

A lot can change in a week.

Exactly one week later, the future budget picture became clearer as we learned some new information and as some challenges were identified related to our endowment and the real future fiscal year budgetary impact of the loss of a grant came into better focus.  One of our major offices is currently funded via a combination of a grant and endowment funds.  This office is critical to our efforts to retain students.  Without this office, we would have serious budgetary issues starting next year.  With the grant going away, the regular operational budget, starting next year, needs to absorb the salaries for the people in this office.

Although this fiscal year’s budget can support the new position, every new position needs to be sustained for the long run and adding this new position now makes it that much more difficult to absorb some critical positions while still balancing the organizational budget.

So, as you probably guessed by now, I was asked if I would consider giving up the recently approved position.  Obviously, after expending a lot of effort on making the case and finally getting it approved, it was tough to do, but given the choice between easing the IT workload and these other critical positions, it was a no brainer decision – I gave up the position.  Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe that my singular position would have necessarily resulted in a bunch of people losing their jobs and possibly risking a major revenue stream, but I do know that the whole organization needs to work together to make sure that the revenue stream stays intact and that those in core positions aren’t risked due to budgetary constraints.

As a concession, I was granted into a consulting line the full salary for this position for this fiscal year.  Now, instead of working on a division of workload, we’ll focus our efforts on one-time projects that can reap permanent gains.  In short, we’ll use the money that was granted to streamline as much as possible so that we can achieve as much of the originally intended results as possible and make sure that we can reasonably maintain our operations and momentum.

Once the economy gets to more solid ground and our endowment recovers and we achieve a more sustainable budget, the position will be at the top of the institutional priority list.  For now, though, we’ll adjust our expectations, manage user expectations, and do the best we can with what we have.

Sometimes, having the view of the big picture makes it easy to scale back.