5 IT essentials: A recession-proof priority list
Seven out of 10 CIOs interviewed by Robert Half Technology said their companies will invest in information technology initiatives in the next 12 months, with security topping the list of budget priorities. Virtualization, data center efficiency, VoIP, and SaaS rounded out the top 5.
But ask an IT manager what 5 things their IT departments must do -- no matter how bad the economy gets -- and a somewhat different picture emerges. Sure, security still sits at the top of the priority list, but innovation, aligning IT with business, and training are top-of-mind for some.
Amidst all the talk about managing costs, doing more with less, layoffs, and cutbacks, IT managers find themselves paring things down to the essentials. Here, IT managers share the things their departments can't do without. (And IT professionals share the things they'd be happy to stop doing ... now!)
[ What are your 5 must-dos? Share them in the comments. ]
Security is job 1
For MEDEX, provider of global travel medical and security evacuation and assistance, risk mitigation is mission critical, not only because it's what they do for over 20 million travelers each year but for the security and privacy of the customer data they maintain. And it's why security and disaster recovery are top priorities for Eddie Jenkins, MEDEX's Director of IT. "We urge our international clients to be 'prepared for the unexpected,' and we have to be prepared as well," says Jenkins.
Disaster preparedness is also key for CableOrganizer.com, an e-commerce company headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the hurricane season begins in June and lasts until November. "We have to be ready, which is why we've created a disaster recovery plan, and were more than willing to spend money on it," says Nicolas Dubus, CableOrganizer's IT Director.
Bill Bolt, VP of IT for the Phoenix Suns puts an even finer point on it: "The ability to recover through redundancy and backup procedures is everything."
By phone or by Web
Telecommunications tops Scott Whitney's must-have list. "A 24x7 dial tone is paramount to us," says Whitney, IT manager at Journyx, a provider of Web-based time tracking, project accounting and resource management solutions. "Calling prospects and providing support to customers happens 99% over the phone."
Coming in a close second on Whitney's list is Internet bandwidth: "Even in a recession, for a tech company to be bottle-necked in their office causes enormous headaches for the entire team," says Whitney. Bill Bolt picks up this thread, adding "Today a company can't do without e-mail, calendar and contact loss of service."
For Andre Preoteasa, Director of IT at Castle Brands, the communications must-have can be summed up in one word: BlackBerry.
"Even in a recession, technology and innovation move at a very fast pace," says Nicolas Dubus. "In the IT department, we need to keep up with and understand any new technologies that emerge, as well as implement the right solutions for the business."
"Providing ongoing learning opportunities for the IT staff is crucial to the growth and flexibility of the organization," agrees Lou Trebino, SVP and CIO, at The Harry Fox Agency. But since training budgets go out the window in hard times, IT managers get creative. "Training can be formal classroom or self-paced instruction, as well as job sharing, 'brown bag lunch' sessions, and shadowing," says Trebino.
The right person for the job
A Network and System Administrator is Nicolas Dubus's number 1 must-have. "It is very important to have someone in-house who is able to solve daily issues, help the users, replace hardware when needed, contact vendors, apply the latest security patches, and stay late when we need to upgrade the network," says Dubus.
Eddie Jenkins and Lou Trebino take a less tactical approach, saying innovation is their most valued skill. "In tough times we need to support innovation. We need to make sure we continue to reward innovative ideas and invest in people who have these innovative ideas," says Jenkins.
For Lou Trebino, a supportive executive team is essential to the success of IT. "They need to see the value proposition of IT and not view IT as merely a cost of doing business," says Trebino.
Nicolas Dubus recommends having IT engineers join forces with marketing strategists. "It is important that different teams within the company spend time together in order to brainstorm, prioritize tasks, follow up, test, and make the final push for various projects," says Dubus. "This will help ensure that the projects we spend time and money on are those that will improve our competitive advantage and bring in the most revenue."
"It's more important than ever to develop a strategy and not stray," adds Eddie Jenkins. "We are working with the leadership team to make sure that each and every project we currently are working on will support the company's overall strategic goals."