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  • Writer's pictureTony L.

It's Not All Gloom & Doom, Part 2

In the first post on this topic, I outlined a few areas where IT and business leaders can be proactive to add value during uncertain times. This follow-up elaborates a bit and adds a few more options.

Double Down on Portfolio Prioritization… I mentioned this is the prior post, but allow me to emphasize a bit here. There are always more project requests – large and small, product features, upgrades and maintenance activities than there are staff and time. Regardless of how work is funded, IT executives have to partner with business leaders to collaborate on allocating resources (capital, staff) to the next best investment. This may require un-funding poorly performing projects or projects whose benefits realization opportunities have changed unfavorably. Even in an open/flexible funding scenario, the resource allocation decisions are just as critical.

Organizations have to have a structured, collaborative process to determine the next best investments. If that’s not true in your organization today, now is the time to make it happen. A well structured and disciplined process will ensure IT projects adequately reflect strategic priorities and deliver the greatest returns. Without a well understood and governed process, unfunded project proponents will feel slighted and either “game” the process or attempt to use resources “around the process.” To make this work, all leaders need to subscribe to a set of weighted evaluation criteria across strategic goals, technical feasibility, financial, customer/user change management, regulatory, risk, resource availability and other appropriate factors, build a realistic business case for proposed investments (preferably affirmed by a CFO or designated “auditor”), score all the opportunities against the criteria, and formulate a stacked ranking.

Ideally, the top-ranked investment is funded first. Since this kind of scoring is both art and science, closely ranked opportunities are interchangeable. In most of my experience, executives will make a quick call on the best investment - all things considered.

Be relentless managing costs… There are nearly always opportunities to evaluate how IT spending is allocated, and these become much more visible when the environment is tight. Making a discipline of this now will demonstrate increased confidence in your cost profile going forward. Vendor competition, functional consolidation, sourcing options, renegotiation, automation (mentioned in the prior post) and elimination are all options.

Over time, many vendors can deliver improved capability at lower costs – seek these regularly and build periodic performance/cost reviews into contracts. Changing vendors may require reengineering, but if the resulting cost reduction is favorable enough, this can be a high value opportunity. The most difficult is renegotiation - business changes can drive options, yet most vendors are willing to cooperate to retain a client.

Are there applications that perform similar functions and can be consolidated? Is there a plethora of equipment that can be standardized? Are there multiple development platforms and fewer will suffice? Are there high-maintenance services that it’s time to eliminate or outsource?

But… You Can’t Let up on Cybersecurity… maintaining investments in cybersecurity (or “information security” is a term I prefer) is essential for protecting you from threats that can compromise sensitive information, disrupt operations, and create reputational, legal and financial damage. With the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, it's crucial to prioritize the latest prevention tools, maintain great basic system hygiene, limit access to network segments and applications/data, know your vendors’ postures, ensure you employ the necessary defensive tactics, have a recovery plan and keep users aware of how to avoid bad guy tricks. (Sure… easy!) Of course, this just scratches this surface of how to have an overall solid security posture. Even though this is more defense than offense, a compromise here will lead to regret.

So hopefully you have a better picture of how to drive through the fog and storms of an economically uncertain time. As always, ultimately the fog will lift and the storm will pass. Executing on any of these initiatives will position an IT org to come out stronger and ready to take advantage of the next upturn.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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