January 31, 2008, 8:49 PM — Well, I had planned on spouting off about what the latest decline and fall
of the U.S. economy could mean for solutions integrators. That seemed too depressing.
We all went through this in the 2000 to 2001 timeframe as the Internet bubble
was bursting. It was in all the papers. Spending continued to slow following
Sept. 11, 2001. Alas, that was in all the papers, too.
Back in its mainframe halcyon days of the 1970s and 1980s, IBM was respected
for what amounted to contrarian thinking when times grew tough, such as after
the oil embargoes of the mid 1970s (it was in all the papers). What IBM did
was essentially this: As the outlook for sales grew increasingly dim, the company
would put more shoe leather on the street. Essentially, that meant revving up
the sales machine, knocking on doors, calling on dormant accounts, finding ways
to help customer boost productivity in the MIS departments (long before anyone
called it IT), and cut data processing costs.
And here we are again, in a down economy. IBM is not the same company it was
back then, but its philosophy from those bygone days should not be completely
lost. Just last week, I spoke with an integrator who said several of his regular
clients had put either spending slowdowns or complete budget freezes in place.
Not a good thing.
I know he must be among the legendary "tough," because at this point
he "got going." Not ready to cry uncle, he approached these clients,
asking questions about the current state of affairs. Though money wasn't there
for new projects, what about fixing existing issues? Or perhaps he could demonstrate
how a small-scale project could yield cost savings. "What can we do today
that will save you money tomorrow," was the strategy.
Sure, there were barriers to overcome, but several avenues to explore.
Aging printer fleets with expensive maintenance contracts could be replaced.
Outsourcing printer fleet management to a third party -- integrator or vendor
-- could relieve IT of much misery, free up staff, and reduce costs.
Server consolidation and a transition to virtual machines could drastically
reduce hardware headcount, simplify administration, slash electrical consumption,
and reduce HVAC requirements.
Analyzing software licenses and aggregating dozens or hundreds of individual
licenses into volume agreements could similarly reduce complexity, save money,
and more easily provide license compliance should the software police descend
on the business.
Restructuring data backup by shifting to newer in-house technology or outsourcing
to an offsite service provider could provide enhanced levels of automation,
reduced hands-on involvement, and cut costs, all while providing greater protection.