Three Ways to Thrive in a Recession

We have all been deluged with suggestions on how to survive during the current economic slump. From admonishments to “weather the storm”, which, in the extreme, advocates hiding behind an equipment rack whenever the CFO was about and selling the conference table to save a few bucks and hoping to come out the other side of the recession able to tell the tale.

Other recommendations resort to the tried and tired techno-trap of advocating “solutions” as saviors, suggesting that merely mentioning things like SaaS, virtualization and ITIL will win the CEO to your side and cause waterfalls of scarce cash to fall into your lap.

Either of these tacks, even in less extreme forms, are a recipe for disaster. In the first case, the best scenario is that you arrive in happier economic times with a decimated budget, skeleton crew staff, and the image of a commodity that can be trimmed to the breaking point. In the second, techno-babble and a litany of IT “solutions” relegate you to irrelevance and garner glassy-eyed stares from your peers in the C-suite. What is needed are solid tactics for not only weathering a recession, but coming out in a better stead when times improve; ready to accelerate to even greater heights rather than starting to pick up the pieces of a shattered organization.


A down economy is the perfect time for action. From the pundits in the press predicting increasingly horrible economic woes to “solution providers” peddling the technical equivalent of IT snake oil, there is no shortage of theory and concept. Talk is cheap. In tough times a premium is put on measurable results and the person that can deliver them is vastly more respected than the blowhard pundit.

We in IT have all talked about mercurial concepts like alignment and strategy, and now is the time to start showing how we are delivering on these concepts through action that generates measurable economic results. Rather than talking with your peers about your latest plans for increased alignment or how some new technology will save the day when it matures 18 months in the future, sing the praises of your recent project successes, or work closely with a counterpart to deliver a joint business and IT project.

Turn your project management office from an administrative entity to a group that can quickly and transparently articulate where IT is spending its money, what returns are being generated, and what risks have been assumed. Target your performance evaluations on where your senior staff are delivering measurable results and admonish them to talk less and do more. If some concept cannot be translated into a defined plan with measurable economic results, scrap it and allocate the resources elsewhere.

Less Green, More Greenbacks

When times are tough there is little tolerance for projects heavy on goodwill but light on actual cash generation. Saving the environment is a noble goal, but is likely not going to justify millions in data center upgrades or provide enough goodwill to offset the CEO’s task of laying off swaths of employees (“Sorry we had to axe you Joe, but the CIO really needed to buy that new ‘green’ server.”).

Think of every project you undertake as a miniature business. There are costs to start the business, resources to be allocated, and returns to be garnered. If you cannot articulate each aspect of the venture, especially the costs and expected returns, then the project is a bad idea no matter how many IT rags advocate the technology or how many industry leaders run the same software.