CIO Cora Carmody: Finding Cost-Savings Opportunities

By Cora Carmody  |  Posted 08-05-2009 Print Email
To find cost savings, Jacobs Engineering CIO Cora Carmody didn't swing an axe. Instead, she found small opportunities that added up to big wins.

As a CIO, it's easy to get lulled into recession depression and think, "My only job is cutting costs."

But if you're a CIO who knows your business will come back--it's always cyclical, after all--one of the first things you have to do is embrace your people. Your employees may not have many jobs to bolt to when things are tight, but you have to make sure that when they do have the choice, they choose to stay. It's easy to forget that and spend most of your time cutting costs. Get out and be a face to your work force--send e-mails with information and positive reinforcement.

Obviously, though, "doing more with less" means much more than work force management. Cutting costs is an inescapable reality, but it is really much better to make cost-effective changes that can pay off long term, and not just short term.

We've found a few ways to do this.

I don't have the funding to have a dedicated enterprise architecture team, and my thinking about how important that is for an enterprise is changing anyway. I have had dedicated architects and teams in the past, with varied success. We are trying something different at Jacobs Engineering; we drafted a variety of people to take on these responsibilities, on top of their everyday work.

They're not a professional architecture team, and no professional framework was provided. What they are is a group of "doers" representing all key areas--technologies, services, geographies, etc. And they've done a great job.

The result? We are able to bring together our best and brightest to accomplish crucial goals--all without having to hire new workers. It is a challenge--and it is stretching everyone's workday. But a lot of people are getting a new career experience in IT, and we are getting the process and products we need to help make IT decisions.

We are also saving money by addressing an issue that few executives even think about: printing. Printing is a necessity, but it's one of those things that often get overlooked. Once we looked at our printing habits, we realized we could save several million dollars a year by doing it smarter.

See main story: CIOs in the Era of Doing More With Less

Printing is an area where you can truly say, "It all adds up." We piloted print management strategies in three U.K. offices and are now rolling those strategies across our other U.K. as well as our North American offices. Part of these strategies was to change behavior--to get employees to think before they printed, and to only use color when absolutely necessary. We also changed the defaults to print double-sided. Such changes may sound trivial, but a company could save millions of dollars without letting people go just by changing behavior--and without a huge investment in technology. Plus, it's a green initiative.

The result? For one, one of our offices went from printing 2 percent double-sided to 69 percent, at a great savings, just in paper. We are looking at other strategies in print management, including power management and more network-based printers. It all adds up, and in the case of printing, it will add up to millions of dollars in savings a year.

This falls under the category of doing more with less, but it goes a step further: It's doing more with less so you can free up money to save people, who can then take on other duties. It's all process improvement at that point. A print management initiative is not trivial, but it is easier than a huge project like putting in a new ERP system.

Smarter IT asset management also pays off. Companies aren't always smart about reallocating hardware and software once people leave. If they don't have a solid IT asset strategy, they run the risk of buying unnecessary platforms. We've avoided a large amount of purchasing as we grow and attrit naturally just by keeping better tabs on our technology assets.

Overall, CIOs have to keep their function balanced. Some functions get in the habit of trying to operate as lean as they can, and it's possible to get too unbalanced. One strategy that sometimes makes sense is to augment the legs and arms of your organization with more variable work forces. And it is often a good call to hire the best people you can find, even if you don't have an immediate position.

Cora Carmody is CIO of Jacobs Engineering.

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