Adapt! (or else)

In the real world corporate financial resources are finite, and bankers reduce the limits as quickly as they can when recessions hit. In response, finding ways to cut IT demand for credit and other resources can push back the limits executives face in finding ways to get the company through - and thus help them save your job too.

Despite enormous economic fluctuations through three separate boom and bust cycles Alberta government spending on digital computing has been on a steady upward trend since the first System 360 services contract got signed in the 1960s - and the current bust isn't likely to affect that. The reason for this is simple: the only options the political decision makers get to hear about are those vetted by the primary beneficiaries of the spending - meaning that if you work in the Alberta government's data processing environment, you can pretty much treat annual budget growth as a given no matter how bad the economy gets.

You, on the other hand, are probably not quite so blessedly insulated from reality - meaning that the economic chaos we're seeing these days is probably going to affect your willingness to implement options you would otherwise never consider.

To help that kind of free thinking along, I'd like to offer a subversive suggestion: if the push has gone out of your markets a bit, and therefore your users aren't all that busy anyway, why not soak up some of that time by freezing wintel and mainframe expenditures and moving to save some bucks by converting a majority of wintel users to something a little better and a little cheaper? Like Lintel, OpenOffice, and/or whatever other free applications work for you?

Freezing expenditures where you can and going to Lintel where it makes sense won't do much for you on manpower costs - but if you can find ways to freeze or reduce your evergreen costs over a one or two year horizon without creating a cliff at the end, then your actions will free up corporate credit capacity and working capital.

The actual opportunities are as varied as businesses and markets, but consider the simple stuff: most manufacturing, retail, and distribution businesses have overwhelming majorities of non power users - people who couldn't care less what their PCs run as long as they work. Converting a few hundred plant PCs to lintel doesn't sound like much and won't make your life in IT easier, but do it right and you'll reduce user computer frustration while pushing hardware upgrades back a few years and avoiding a round of Microsoft licensing.

Depending on how big your business is and what you do, that kind of thing can mean freeing corporate resources to support a new sales push, an improved production process, or something else that makes money - money that keeps you, and everybody else in IT, employed.

So how do you sell this? To top management on cash, to your own people as a way to gain marketable skills, and to users as what it is: your contribution to helping them keep their jobs.

This particular bottom line on recession is simple: if you can't come and work for the data processing managers in charge of government IT, doing anything and everything you can now to hunker down on cash while supporting your users and your business is not just the next best thing, it could be the key to keeping your job.