Weathering the Approaching Storm

The press are predicting a recession for the second half of this year and in many respects that’s not surprising with the cost of living issues, fuel pricing and the war in Ukraine. Recessions used to be bad news for IT Leaders because CEOs and CFOs used to see technology as a cost that could be cut back and reduced during a recession to save money, but I hope for most CEOs those days are well gone. Now, IT should be at the heart of the business and the last thing to be cut. If it’s not then it may well be time to move on; there’s only so long you can bang your head against a brick wall!

So, with what looks like a gathering storm in the economy, what should we, as CIOs and CTOs, be doing to help our CEOs find savings, drive down costs, increase productivity, secure the business, and do more with less? If we play our cards right, these should be great times for CIOs and CTOs because we can deliver on all of these and more. And if we do, our value is assured, and it will demonstrate that technology is the critical part of the business eco-system that will sustain it through any macro-economic down-turn.

So, here are my top 5 areas to consider:

⚙️ Standardise, Cloudify and Simplify

Bespoke or custom systems and platforms are always a money-pit and will remain so regardless of how well they’re managed and serviced. Any in-house tech will also suffer from technical debt, incomplete testing, long-term bugs, retaining staff with knowledge, concerns around security and high maintenance costs. These bespoke systems should be mothballed and replaced with off-the-shelf, shrink-wrapped products served from the cloud. Capital costs convert to opex costs, product management and development become someone else’s problem and everything becomes simpler.

This will also be the time to demonstrate the wisdom of re-working business processes to fit the systems rather than trying to fit the systems to the business processes. Let’s face it most business processes were made up on the fly and are never as effective or efficient as they should be. COVID lockdowns helped standardise procedures, but by implementing standard systems with set process flows within them, everything becomes far simpler and repeatable. Just don’t let anyone persuade you they’re special and they need to do things in a certain way that needs bespoke coding/configuration because they’re lying!

🗄️ Data Integrity and Integration

Once you’ve got your standard platforms in place, integrating them becomes a lot easier because they’ll all have simple standardised interfaces that can be easily connected enabling data to readily flow between them. Removing manual data wrangling between systems not only frees up resources to do more productive things, it also significantly improves the quality and accuracy of data.

If the company is going to be efficient and effective, then no-one should be moving data around, spreadsheets should be a thing of the past and everyone should have faith in the quality of the data. Once you have a single source of truth and integrated quality data, the ability to make good decisions will significantly improve because everyone’s using the same data to create reports and make the decisions. For once, everyone arrives at the table with the same data; no more squabbling about whose data is actually the right data, just an opportunity to make good decisions and in tough times, that’s really important.

🔒 Secure the Borders

In troubled times, the nefarious actors come out in force. They know companies will be under more stress than normal and will attempt to use these occasions to take them to the cleaners. Whether that’s through extortion, black-mail, stealing money through invoice fraud or any other tactic they can lay their hands on to get your money, believe you me, those efforts are already ratcheting upwards.

The thing to remember here is that it’s all very well investing in great security systems (and we should), but technology is never the weakest link. The weakest link is always the employees and the best security bang for the company buck is to maintain a constant level of training and focus on security so employees are always on the alert. Without investing in good security training for everyone in the business, it’s inevitable that at some point, security will be breached and there will be a cyber incident. I’m sure that’s something we, the CIO want to avoid!

⚠️ Update the Risk and Issue Log

This is a great time to make sure the risk and issue log is up to date. Not just for IT, but for the whole company. I know it’s quite a boring and mundane task, but if the company knows what its risks are and why they exist, it’s a lot better than having a risk turn in to an issue out of the blue and the whole business has to focus on fixing the issue rather than getting on with normal work.

💻 Basic Office Product Training

People will be more effective and efficient if they can use their word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software with skill and dexterity. In addition, the faster someone can type, the more efficient and effective they become too. If employees have these simple skills improved it can make a step-change difference to the company’s productivity. It’s one of the easiest no-brainer actions every company should make.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and what’s important is that you can show that we, the CIO or CTO, and the IT function are instrumental in enabling the business to be in the best shape possible to weather any approaching economic storm. If you get these things right, then it’s going to be the competitors that go to the wall, not you; that has to be a good thing, right?! Has anyone got any other great ideas for demonstrating how key IT is to surviving the downturn? If so, comment below and share.

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