The last investment aces IT leaders played turned out to be losers. First we had Y2K. "The end is nigh" we shouted, before the date came and went. To restore credibility and persuade our companies to put us first in the resource queue we had dotcoms, but these, too, came and went (well, a lot of them).
What next? Back to that dynamic agenda of savings and reductions, or can we do something to secure our fair share of the budgets, or perhaps even more? It is time for IT to show, once and for all, that we are not simply "aligned with the business" - we are business. We are the heart of every company and in these challenging times, we are not simply going to show our worth, we are going to forge the future.
Any IT directors who do not agree with this can make excuses, reduce staff numbers and hide in their offices waiting for the bad news e-mail. Just don't complain when you are out of a job, or hit skill shortages, or wonder why your company comes off worse than others.
There are seven specific actions to take that will enable every IT team to emerge soaring from any economic downturn.
- Focus on people. Now, more than ever, we must motivate those who are our key differientiators. Excellent people will always have a choice of employers, so we must ensure they choose us.
- Think business, speak business, be business. Become a business leader. And make sure your team does, too. Every single person in your team, full-time and contractor, is your organisation. The technology does not matter any more.
- Take ownership of change. When companies are doing well, their boards introduce change initiatives once a week: in challenging times, they go into overdrive - take a week's holiday and when you come back you may as well be on Mars. So IT directors must get hold of change in the organisation.
- Your top priorities must be your company's priorities. Three of your chief executive's top IT priorities are business value, security and customer relationships - you can play a huge role.
- Maintain a Web presence without spending too much money. We have spent fortunes on Web sites, on e-projects and the Internet. It is cut-back time, yes, but don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Focus on achieving value from your site - by investing in Web site information on customers, and how to attract more.
- Make suppliers your trusted partners. They need you and you need them, so get close, really close. Share, help each other, and ask them to be your eyes and ears on the business and IT worlds. Transform that relationship into one based on trust rather than on contracts.
- Look after yourself. Stress is prevalent in tricky times, so take care of yourself. Fortunately, unlike in the early 1990s, many companies are more understanding of the need for calm minds, relaxed bodies and energised spirits.
These are the areas that will make a difference, and they are up to you. Overall, however, remember to keep your life in balance. After all, it has been said before and is no less true now - how many of you, with your last breath on this planet, will say "I wish I had spent more time in the office"?
David Taylor's Inside Track is published by Butterworth Heinemann, tel: 01865-888180.
This was first published in October 2001