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Opportunities in the Downturn

It's easy to identify the negatives related to the economic downturn. A bigger challenge is to identify the new opportunities that the downturn provides.

As an example, now is the time to uplevel your team by hiring top talent.

1) Given the miriad of layoffs, there is a larger group of unemployed, talented folks who are available for hire.
2) Given the elimination of bonuses and the decline of stock prices, it is easier to hire away top talent then in the good days of big bonuses and stock value. "I can't leave because I have too much value in my stock options" has been significantly decreased in almost every company.
3) Although incremental hiring might be frozen, you can always make the case to replace less strong resources with stronger external talent. Think about it this way - a one for one swap but increasing your talent base.

The second opportunity is to increase your discipline in Portfolio Management (PfM). PfM is sometimes ignored or deprioritized when times are good and money/resources are abundant. The need to scrutinize spend and value increases dramatically when times are tough. Inevitably when you need to decrease spend, you ask the question "what efforts should we stop or slow down?". With a solid PfM process, it is easier to craft options to answer that question compared to situations in which you lack a PfM process. The obstacles related to PfM are many - people do not want to quantify value (it's hard work) for their projects and people do not want to track actual results compared to expected results (accountability concerns). The current downturn should provide the needed impetus to push a PfM process.

The third opportunity is related to operational management. In the IT space, people often talk about "running IT like a business". One way to increase your operational discipline is to leverage a Service Management approach in IT - many companies leverage ITIL as a framework to construct a Service Delivery and Service Support structure. Change is hard and in good times the push-back typically is stated something like this "hey, things are working, let's not mess with it". In the current downturn as IT budgets get squeezed, it is an imperative to reduce your operational expense in order to free up funding for innovation. Service Management provides a framework for improving operational efficiency through greater discipline in areas such as Configuration Management, Release Management and Change Management.

The fourth opportunity is architecture simplification. In the good times, often there is a proliferation of systems/tools in a rush to respond to the business growth. Without governance, the architecture discipline might be compromised in a effort to take advantage of the growth opportunities. In tough times, there is an opportunity to consolidate and simplify your architecture. Consolidation and simplification often results in reduced costs in terms of licensing and operational expenses.

--Brett Colbert

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