CIOs in the Era of Doing More with Less

A year ago, no one really knew exactly how down the downturn would get. CIOs and their executive peers rightly prepared for the worst, and in almost every case, they got what they expected.

Now, several months into the recession, many IT leaders tell CIO Insight that they believe the worst has passed. But that doesn’t mean things have gotten any easier.

In the annals of business technology management, 2009 will surely go down as the year of “doing more with less.”

When times are good, the buzz phrase rings with efficiency and productivity–things any business leader wants. It’s part of the whole “continuous improvement” mind-set.

But in times like these, it takes on a very literal meaning. Think more pressure, responsibility and demands, with less staff and fewer dollars, not to mention less tolerance for anything that doesn’t deliver quick wins for the business.

For CIOs, “doing more with less” could be an opportunity as well as a challenge.

When the inevitable upturn comes, business leaders will put CIOs’ performances in tough times under the microscope. Those who did the right things–even with less–could see upward mobility a little further down the road. Those who didn’t may be relegated to the ranks of utility/cost center managers.

Most importantly for IT leaders today, doing the right things means focusing on the long-term view–the strategic components of your plan and that of the overall business, not the bits and bytes of whatever hot technology is dominating the IT buzz.

“It’s not an opportunity that we’re going to Linux or we’re going to Gmail–it’s an opportunity in the sense that you can be clear to your business partners that you absolutely understand the situation the company is in, you have a good appreciation for what really is important right now, and you can demonstrate that everything you’re able to do is lined up 100 percent behind those critical activities,” says Peter Whatnell, CIO of Sunoco and president of the Society for Information Management. “Essentially, you can convince them to say, ‘Hey, he’s one of us.'”

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