This year has been a time of change for the IT industry as a whole. In an economic downturn, it is absolutely vital that IT and business departments work closely together. Companies look to their CIOs to drive efficiency and create leaner, meaner operations that are set up to survive and thrive during downturn. To so do, they rely on business-led projects that bring a fast return on investment.

It’s time to regroup, to make smart choices, to control the things you can control and put yourself back in the driver’s seat. Companies that act quickly and boldly can out-hustle the competition and gain a crucial competitive advantage when the market turns. These companies will be able to continue to invest in IT and get more done with less by embracing best practices.

Here are five steps that you can take to not only survive, but thrive in this recession.

1. Get out of IT mode. Every project needs to be about improving how the business operates. Tight linkage between the business and IT will maximize ROI. Make sure the business case is well defined and understood by all parties. If you aren’t great at this linkage, work with a partner that has the methodology and experience to drive results quickly.

2. Get determined about global sourcing. Evaluate your unit cost and look for ways to do more with less. Embracing offshore IT service providers can yield huge benefits. Also, thinking about how to use offshore providers more strategically and more radically may be necessary. Many companies dip their toes in the water offshore but don’t really make it a core business strategy. 

3. Get smart about IT spend. Reprioritize your IT spend and execute projects that will have an impact on the bottom lines. These are projects that can truly move the needle in your company and will give you the most competitive advantage as the recovery begins. Can you live without a desktop refresh this year? Maybe. Can you live without an application that directly contributes to new revenue? Probably not.

4. Get persistent about IT quality. Often, when asked to do more with less, quality suffers. Lower quality is a result of a loss of focus on process, testing and metrics. In hard times, these areas are first to take budget cuts. Companies rationalize that these are “nice to have” services. Don’t underestimate the impact that poor quality has on time and cost. Time and cost are precious commodities in this economy. Do the same or slightly less, but do it well.

5. Get serious about business continuity and risk diversification. Put a business continuity plan in place that includes a strategy to diversify the geopolitical risks associated with development resources being located in a single geography. If you have not already diversified both your vendor and your geographical risk, now is the time to do it. You don’t want to be in a position where your ability to execute is compromised.

In difficult economic climates, there are opportunities that exist; in this time of crisis, passivity is a mistake. It is important that organizations take bold approaches to IT in order to achieve great operational efficiencies, reduce costs and aid innovation. Companies that can develop a strategy to address the challenges of retaining customers and growing the business will not only survive this downturn, but thrive to meet the demands of a new and transformed marketplace.

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