Crunch IT – The Role of IT in a Recession

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This was the title of an event that I helped organize for my British Computer Society (BCS) branch last week in Central London, and which, as perhaps might be expected given the current economic climate, generated a fair amount of interest and suggestions from the excellent speakers and a highly vocal audience (see event flyer). […]

This was the title of an event that I helped organize for my British Computer Society (BCS) branch last week in Central London, and which, as perhaps might be expected given the current economic climate, generated a fair amount of interest and suggestions from the excellent speakers and a highly vocal audience (see event flyer). However, it also left me wondering if there really was much that IT could do, on its own, to bring about any sort of lasting change to the current economic situation; especially in light of the fact that IT was not directly responsible for the recession in the first place (Ok, IT may have played a role in the dot com bubble / crash, but the Financial Services industry is probably the main culprit this time around -not pointing any fingers).
Anyway, this event covered, among other things, the following points and perspectives from the speakers:

  • Crunch Insulators – Kenny MacIver, Editor of Information Age, gave an overview of some of the more effective strategies in the IT industry e.g.: Unified IP Network Architectures, Virtualisation (Servers and Storage), and Remote / Mobile Working. Key Message – Simple cost cutting without innovation will not, *ahem*, cut it in this recession
  • IT Governance – Sue Milton, Vice President of ISACA, pointed out that short term savings (e.g IT cost cutting and staff redundancies) may not be in the long term interests of most organizations. Key message – valuable and highly-skilled staff lost to cost cutting will be in demand again at the first sign of a recovery
  • Risk Assurance – Graeme Fleming, Senior Manager at PWC, focused on the IT Risk Landscape, and greater dependence on the efficient use of IT, particularly in a downturn. Key Message – focus on projects (rationalisation), Information Security Risk and better controls for Outsourcing
  • China’s Opening – Ting Zhang and Dr. Paul Irwin Crookes, from China Business Solutions, discussed the major opportunities and challenges posed by China to the global software industry. Key Message – you’ll need an effective strategy to engage with a resurgent Chinese market, and it’s renewed focus / investment in technology and innovation.

For me, the overall message was that there is no real indication of if / when we might expect to see an end to this current recession, therefore IT and related industries must learn to adapt and cope with an increasingly challenging landscape, whilst delivering critical benefits to their internal and external clients. It makes me wonder if a protracted global recession will also bring about a fundamental change in the engagement models used by existing (or surviving) technology advisory and consulting organizations. For example, are we likely to see an increase in joint ventures, and risk-reward-partnerships, between advisors and client, as opposed to the relatively more straightforward fees-on-delivery type models that currently dominate our business?

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