Tough times call for tough measures. Layoffs and cutbacks are rampant. Even if your IT budget is relatively stable, you will probably be asked to do more with less.
But perhaps a better solution would be to do less with less -- to scale back on over-allocated services, curtail unnecessary capital expenditures, and clean house of legacy apps and orphaned software. This may be your opportunity to show the organization how it can save money using open source software, virtualization, cloud computing, or SaaS.
[ For more advice on how to keep your IT project afloat, see "Six ways to save your IT project from the scrap heap." ]
Pushed to the brink, top brass may prove more receptive to ideas you've been itching to implement for a long time. In short, this is when IT can show its true value.
"I think this is the year IT steps up to the plate and shows how we can make the business more efficient," says Patti Dock, COO for DataMotion, provider of data governance services. "Someone has to do it. I think IT professionals can become evangelists for efficiency in the organization."
With great change comes great opportunity. Here are 16 ways you can achieve the same or better results by doing less -- and keep your staff sane and intact in the process.
1. Lay it out in black and white
The first step toward doing less is to figure out IT's real load. In other words, take account of all the resources required to keep the lights running, as well as those development projects on the back burner.
This is harder than it sounds, says Jim Smith, CEO of Enterprise Management Group, which for years specialized in troubleshooting struggling IT departments.
As a services firm, Smith's group would take over IT operations inside large organizations and make each manager account for each hour of every employee's time for the next year. Then Smith would present the results to management. The project list always exceeded the number of bodies necessary to complete the work. The officers would then be forced to have an open dialog about which projects to fund and which ones to cut.
Smith says his group routinely managed to cut 10 to 20 percent of each organization's IT budget in less than three months.
"We eliminated the mystery that IT is some amorphous thing they can't understand," says Smith. "This stuff isn't smoke, mirrors, and magic. It's labor, like any other department. And once the business side understands IT, they can't second-guess it any more because they're the ones making the decisions."
2. Focus on short-term wins
For years, IT managers have been taught to think strategically and plan for the long term. But for many organizations, the future is now, says Joe Wolke, director of IT strategy at Forsythe Solutions Group.
"A project with a significant return that won't be realized for three to five years does not make sense if a CIO is charged with reducing costs this year," he says.
If you're working on a complex project that spans multiple years, break it into pieces, find the parts with the biggest immediate payoffs, and implement those first, says Wolke. The world changes too quickly to bet on a long-term return that may never be realized.