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Tough Times Call For Easy Decisions

When the times get tough and the debt clock pops there are two ways companies can go:
  1. Clamp down and micro-manage
  2. Call upon the staff to stay responsible, be innovative and creative
With micro-management the mirage generated is that whilst the world is going to hell in a handbag the senior members of the organisation are in control and have detailed plans that guarantee the company's ongoing success. The underlying message this sends is that the majority of staff are children and in these trying times the "parents" are in charge and only they know what's best.

A classic example of this behaviour is for expense authorisation to migrate up the organisation hierarchy where you suddenly have the CFO micro-managing how much paper staff are allowed to use in their printers.

If, on the other hand, you have an organisation that understands that they are "in this together" and everyone needs to watch the pennies without someone from above telling you the company is likely to not only survive but thrive.

In my industry, IT, this can go two ways:
  1. No new software to be bought
  2. Get creative with the software we have and the software we need
No new software normally means no new large projects involving the major software vendors that come wrapped in consultancy, services and a gazillion servers to be administered.

(If this photo doesn't get the creative juices flowing ... find something that will!)

But the world has moved on.
We no longer need to play in that particular "fat cat" field.

Firstly, you already have software!
You have software coming out of your ears but most of us only use a small part of the software's capabilities, we use the functionality we're familiar with and we use software for what it was "intended for". A little bit of creativity can have you exploring the hidden depths, mashing up software A with software B to solve business problems without the need for new applications.

But hey, do you need new/old/any software at all?
Sometimes thinking outside the beige PC box can lead to richer and more fruitful solutions that can give you competitive advantage, something all companies need in larger doses at the moment.

And then, of course, there's using software that doesn't require server maintenance, annual licence fees or hordes of consultants - "community software" such as cloud computing and open source. You might not just solve business problems but dramtically cut costs - it's happening in NZ schools and US local Government, why can't you?

Finally, in these times of belt tightening us IT workers (of all shades, denominations and approaches) need to be crystal clear on one thing - what actual, real, here-and-now business problems are we solving? If you can't attribute at least one direct and measurable business outcome* to your IT project then be honest and don't do it!

But if you are gonna do - DO IT! Who cares how you do it, just give the business the outcome they want. Become a pirate and follow Chris Brogan - The Beauty of Pirate Ships:
We can reframe this any way you want, but the point is this: get hungry. Figure out the goal, that thing you’re going to claw your way towards, and set that goal on FIRE. Make it a blazing beacon that guides you in all decisions. And now, for the hard part.

Throw away all the excuses. Here’s where we tie in the pirate ships. Pirates didn’t give a rat’s ass what their ship looked like, or even whether it was their ship in the first place. They took whatever floated and could carry cannons and men, and they lobbed themselves at targets. It was messy. It was ugly. It was warfare, but they weren’t ones to fret or struggle with their infrastructure. What defined a pirate ship? That the pirates were aboard it. That’s about it.

Tough times call for reality within IT sections as the business can no longer leave us to play with our toys. But hey, this is easy isn't it as we're already doing that for our companies/clients and therefore have no fear of these fiscally challenged times ... aren't we?

* Business outcomes come in only 3 types:
  1. Increased revenue (how much and by whom?)
  2. Decreased cost (who will cut their budget for next year because they don't need as much?)
  3. Increased service (measured by what and owned by which business unit?)