President's Corner

For many of us, what’s been happening in the global economy over the past 3 months is completely unprecedented and outside our experience. Some of us were in the work force during the staggering inflation and skyrocketing interest rates that accompanied the 1973-74 recession. More of us will remember the high unemployment rates of the 1983 recession. But for most IT professionals today, the only benchmarks are the short-lived dip in the early 1990’s and the dot com bust of 2001.  And one thing we’ll likely remember about those most recent events is that they both had significant effects on IT employment.

Will the effect be the same in 2009?  That remains to be seen, but many prognosticators are suggesting that the answer might be “no”.

If their assessment is right, then it’s because we in IT have learned and applied important lessons from our previous experience.  Perhaps the most important lesson learned is that our discipline and our technology has rapidly evolved from being “cool stuff” to being the very foundation upon which our businesses — whether they be corporate, government, or academic — depend for continued success.  And that delivering business value is the recipe for IT success.

In the recent period of economic growth, we’ve deployed technology to improve the efficiency of our internal business, automated transactions between and among all kinds of businesses all over the world, made our Internet space just as important and dynamic as our physical space, made our staffs both more mobile and more inter-connected, and amassed vast storehouses of data from which we can derive information that informs our decisions.  And we’ve made everything both secure and accessible and compliant with applicable regulations, all the while delivering it up at lightning speed with no discernible interruption in 24×7x365 availability.

And in so doing, we have changed the face of enterprise IT.  We’ve transformed it from a collection of distinct platforms, operating systems, storage devices and databases to a highly interconnected array of processors, networks, communications, content, and devices that exist both within and outside the four walls of our organizations.  The distinct technologies have matured incredibly over the past 15 years.  The challenges today lie at the intersections of interoperability within the vast array of resources that is today’s enterprise IT and the need to make it fast, simple, and intuitive for the user regardless of the underlying complexity.  Those challenges come into even sharper focus in the light of current economic conditions.

It’s clear that the emphasis for much of 2009 is likely to be on expense management and delaying capital investments.  For IT, that’s an opportunity to demonstrate value to the business, not in staff reductions but in staff expertise in:

-understanding the needs of the business, prioritizing the right projects, and optimizing use of existing resources

-understanding how to use external resources such as hosted solutions or applications in the cloud to augment internal resources at reduced cost

-understanding how to re-factor and re-combine existing solutions to rapidly respond to changing needs

-understanding how to align technical components with business processes for more efficient operations

-understanding and implementing best practices in resource management, configuration management, governance, security, compliance, and business continuity

-understanding how to assemble and lead cross-functional teams to successful project results

-understanding the ramifications of implementation choices and knowing what will likely work and what could be a costly mistake

As business conditions return to growth — which they inevitably will — the value our organizations seek from IT will shift to:

-rapid response to the changing conditions

-rapid ramp-up of new solutions that will give the business a competitive advantage

-clear prioritization of new or delayed projects to position the organization for growth

-rapid execution of the highest priority projects

-rapid integration of emerging technology and new uses of technology to make the business more efficient or more productive or more responsive to customers

-the ability to rapidly modify a business process and just as quickly adjust the enabling technology

-efficient and cost-effective deployments

-solutions that reduce environmental impact and optimize use of power, real-estate, and other costly resources.

If we’re smart about what we undertake during the economic downturn, we can position our enterprise IT to be immediately ready to take on the demands of growth.  That’s the kind of value that a business can ill-afford to ignore.  Doing it successfully and demonstrably to business leaders is a recipe for IT success even in the most challenging times.

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