The natural tendency of some IT departments when faced with tough economic times and pressure from above is to slash all high risk, innovative projects and to focus on conservative “keep the lights running” investments.
While this strategy might help to improve the bottom line for a few quarters, the impacts of this short-sighted thinking will be felt as soon as things pick up:
1. It will be challenging to retain your stars (unless you’ve been able to shackle them with golden handcuffs) – money, training opportunities or other perks are merely “filler”. Working on transformational or innovative projects are what puts the fire in their bellies.
2. When everyone is selling, you should be buying. This holds equally true for innovative projects as it does for investing. You should have a few transformational or innovative projects simmering so that when purse strings loosen you will be able to take advantage of these in advance of your competition.
3. A CIO that solely focuses on cost cutting is ringing the dinner bell for an outsourcer to take over their IT operations. A significant contributor to the intrinsic value that an in-house IT department can deliver is the creation of competitive advantage through strategic use of technology.
This is not an invitation to fund every wild idea that comes across your desk – good project selection processes are needed in both lean and plentiful times. However, part of what makes a good IT leader is the ability to secure and defend a portion of their budget for R&D initiatives. Finally, agile practices can help – “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap“