I’m sure it comes as no surprise that lately the bulk of my conversations with IT practitioners and providers center on the economic downturn that started in the U.S. and is now going global. As I’ve written previously, the natural reaction in hard times is cost cutting. But, cost-cutting alone is often problematic in the long-term, as a recent McKinsey article on Managing IT in a down-turn calls out:
"IT capabilities have fostered new sales channels, defined new customer segments, and even helped create new business models.
These factors make reductions in IT spending more complicated than ever. Simplistic cuts, applied across the board, may endanger critical business priorities from sales support to customer service. That potent message should resonate even among corporate officers anxious to find quick savings.
CIOs, of course, should continue to make their operations more efficient and to reduce costs, especially in areas that show signs of bloat. Discipline tends to slip during a lengthy upturn in spending such as the one that has occurred in recent years. Reducing pockets of unproductive expenditure will bring savings that help meet corporate cost targets.
Still, except in the most dire circumstances, turning off technology investments during a downturn is counterproductive. When business picks up, you may lack critical capabilities. Besides, many technology investments can improve profitability in the short to medium term."
So, the wise IT executive should continue to invest, but those investments need to be selective and well-executed. This brings me to a second conversational theme of late — software engineering discipline. At the recent SOA Consortium meeting, one of the findings Jeanne Ross shared was that "the table stakes for SOA success are mature project management and software development practices". The software engineering theme re-emerged during our ‘soapbox derby sessions’. While respectfully disagreeing on the "how", both Victor Harrison of CSC and Peter Walker of Sun called out the more ‘art than science’ (my term) mode of the majority of today’s software development. And that to achieve success with any highly distributed, shared software development approach, more (some) rigor is required.
Yesterday, with these ideas swirling around, I tweeted the following question "does corporate IT gain or abandon discipline/structure in software dev/delivery in tough economic times?" The responses I received varied from "I hope so, lack of discipline caused this mess" to "the first victim of any time/$$$ pressure is quality".
All that said, I’ve created a quick poll to gather additional perspectives on my question "Does your IT organization gain or abandon discipline during an economic downturn"? The poll answer choices separate IT business discipline and engineering discipline.
If you would complete the following quick poll, I’d appreciate it. Feed subscribers, here is the direct link.