Innovating is Key in a Recession - Page 2

Apr 7, 2009

Allen Bernard


Now is also a good time, according to one of the presenters, to be finding the best and brightest and recruiting them. Right now, people are worried and, therefore, most of them will be at least willing to listen to an offer. While they may not move away from job that appears stable, in today's world, stability is an illusion. Everything can and does change in an instant and everyone knows it. You can use this to your advantage by partnering with HR and having them supply you with a dedicated IT hiring specialist. Someone can train to find the right candidates. This way HR can provide you with value instead of just resumes. One caveat: in good times 60% of people pad their resumes. In bad times, ie, now, look for that number to increase.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to be bringing people on in the midst of a crisis, you still have to be preparing for the turnaround. Having smart people ready to go with new ideas and vision will be a huge asset.


The buzz word today is "smart" sourcing. "Strategic" sourcing is passé. What smart means in practical terms is looking to vendors to provide value, not just low cost. Cost is important, of course, but you can't just focus on the lowest bid.

If you want to work with a smaller, less-well-known company, make seeing their books a contingency in the contract. That way you at least have some idea if they are going to be around in a few years. Working with lesser known firms can also be a part of your innovation strategy since most of what is truly new in IT comes from these quarters.

It's always a good idea to set out a list of expectations, not just SLA metrics, of what you want from a vendor. This way you have an agreement in spirit as well as by the numbers.

For high profile projects, incentivise your vendor to do better by having them take on more of the up-front risk. Put the incentives on the back end so if the project comes in early or under budget they get a bonus or some other form of reward. Many vendors are cash-rich right now so they may be more willing to help with up front costs.

Another idea floated by the sourcing panel, which was moderated by Solutions Gallery co-founder Bruce Barnes of Bold Vision, is to conduct reverse auctions for commodity type purchases. This idea was greeted with a little less enthusiasm than most because reverse auctions can be very time consuming and costly to implement. It does force you to consider new vendors, however, and it can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Fear Itself

And, finally, the message that ran through most of the day was getting back to basics: best practices, governance, quality, value, etc. Communication is another key area that IT often ignores. Think of yourself as an internal consulting group. This may help reshape the conversation in your mind about what IT does and for whom.

Like it or not, major change is upon us. This is disruptive change, not the kind that unfolds incrementally with a new technology but the wholesale change brought about when titanic forces are unleashed. Interestingly, though, new paradigms are not needed to address this new reality, but a return to the things everyone understands: trust, communication, win-win, value.

In this light, IT is not about technology, it is about business. IT is not about blades and racks and software, it is about enablement and innovation. IT is not about automation, it is about doing things better at a reasonable cost with a reasonable expectation of success. IT is a means to an end and that end is bringing us full circle back to the place where IT began: helping the business run better, run faster, and run cheaper.


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