With the endless resurrection of the "ghosts of 1929" I'm starting to believe that even the dead have failed to miss the economic events of the past few weeks.

Typically, in times of economic uncertainty and downturn, IT braces itself for an uncomfortable series of budget cuts.

The mood this time seems notably calmer

Is this a broad acceptance of the inevitable? "When aren't I faced with cuts?"

Perhaps. Whatever your view, now is the time to start pitching IT as the opportunity to be the strategic driving force that will not only keep your organization safe, but help it take advantages of the growth opportunities that appear as the market starts to recover (an ever braver premise, I know...).

InformationWeek has some useful pointers:

  • Have a playbook.
    Emerson Electric's business planning includes creating "playbooks" that anticipate changing events, and IT follows a similar process. CIO Steve Hassell says the key is a "balanced portfolio of projects" prioritized by a variety of factors--cost, resources, technology, time frame, risk--so managers can see their choices as business conditions change.
  • Not the same old drill.
    Three to five years ago, options such as cloud computing and software as a service didn't exist, says Shaklee CIO Ken Harris. But they take time to put in place. Which is why Harris' IT team is evaluating them now, in case a tougher economic climate forces spending cuts and new approaches. "If and when things tighten, it will likely happen quickly," he says.
  • Rogues are reality.
    At Lauth, Ton knows his smaller IT team can't respond as fast as he'd like, so business units may start rogue projects outside IT. "Some of that you might have to 'allow,' to let the business go forward, but you don't want it to run rampant," he says.
  • Fine-tune.
    Spectrum Laboratory Network, a medical lab group, has been growing 20% or more annually for years. But seeing a slight downturn in physician office visits, CIO David Moore is edging back some capital spending, pushing into next year upgrades to some 4-year-old servers. Emerson is continuing long-term strategic projects, including a global data center consolidation, but it's "biasing" its new-project selection over the next few quarters toward shorter-duration, lower-risk projects so the company can respond quickly to economic changes, Hassell says.
  • Honestly assess the company's attitude toward IT.
    Is IT a competitive advantage, where spending can help with business problems related to tightening credit and cash flow? Carl Weddle, IT director at Quality Trailer Products, knows the company sees IT mostly as a cost to be contained in a slowdown, so he gets why his team is being pushed to finish projects without additional funding, and why no new hires are likely. "It is hunker-down time," he says.

The fantastic thing about IT, is the pace of innovation allows us to spend to save in ways we can't do with other investment. Better management tools reduce the IT administration and management overheads (TCO). Productivity innovation enables organizations to maximize their human asset. In growth periods this maximizes the ability to seize the opportunity, in downturns this helps to do the same with much less - maximizing efficiency. Maybe regardless of the situation you want to do both. Whichever your strategy, IT can drive success.

The problem is risk. IT has the potential to solve all, but the success rate is poor.

We hope with the Infrastructure Optimization model, the IP we've gathered and the investment we've made globally we can minimize that risk using methods we've proved to work.

BPIO is our focus on people productivity. There hasn't been a time for more than two generations that you'll be so dependent on your people to deliver like they've never delivered before.

IT Optimization could be what defines your organization's future.

How CIOs Are Setting IT Strategy Amid Economic Uncertainty -- IT And The Economy -- InformationWeek