By Marc J. Schiller
In “The IT Market’s Hot: What’s in it for You?”, we examined the overall trends in the economy and their impact on the IT marketplace. Net, net: The IT market, for both products and workers, is hot, and there are lots of new opportunities for professional and business growth.
The Mixed Blessings of a Hot Market
The hot IT market is all well and good if you are looking for a new job, but what if you like your job and don’t want to leave. What opportunities does the hot IT market hold for you? In fact, the hot IT job market might look like a disaster as you struggle to hold on to your best employees, many of whom are being enticed by new opportunities and increased salaries. This situation can be especially difficult if your employer is still feeling a bit shaky from the great recession and hasn’t jumped on the IT investment bandwagon yet. Naturally, that makes the grass seem a whole lot greener on the other side.
So, what are you supposed to do? Keep it a secret? Hope your people don’t find out about it? Clearly, that won’t work.
The challenge, and the subject of this article, is how to use the external market conditions to help you create internal growth opportunities—the kind that gives you and your employees incentive to stay put.
Start With the End in Mind
To get your company to invest in new IT-enabled initiatives, it will take two basic things: 1) The initiative or project has to be something your company genuinely needs and can benefit from, and 2) your senior management must be convinced that’s the case. So far, all of this is pretty obvious.
What that means practically is that you can’t just march into the CEO’s office and tell her about the overall business and IT investment trends or point out that the resulting hot IT job market is making it difficult for you to retain your best workers and expect it to have much impact. It’s going to take a little more sophistication (and data) than that.
Here’s what you can do.
Step 1: Reconnect With What’s Needed
You, and probably everyone in your company, has been heads down the last few years, tightly managing costs and holding on to customers. Who’s had time to think much about IT investments? Probably no one in the executive suite, but, of course, you can’t help yourself. After all, as the individual that is charged with making systems work, you are always keenly aware of the shortcomings in the business processes (and the supporting systems) and you see lots of opportunities to improve things.
I know that I’m on solid ground here because in more than 25 years in this industry I haven’t met a single senior IT manager that didn’t have a long list in their back pocket of different IT initiatives that they were 100 percent convinced could move the business forward. All they needed was a budget and a willing user community.
Now is the time to dust off that list of IT initiatives and carefully review it. Reconnect with all the things that you were convinced in the recent past could make a big difference to your business. Take your list and sort the items into the following five categories of requirements:
- To continue day-to-day business operations
- To lower our daily operating costs
- To be at parity with our competitors
- To achieve an edge over our competition
- To directly increase sales (be careful with this one).
You’re not quite sure where your set of ideas is in comparison to your competitors? That’s where step 2 comes in.
Step 2: Get Current With Industry Developments
Your back-pocket list is just a starting point. What you really want to find out is where other companies, preferably ones in your industry, are investing.
What you are looking for is a list of IT-related initiatives that your competitors have undertaken. And, if you are really ambitious, an explanation of why they have invested in those initiatives and the benefits they are hoping to achieve.