IT Staff: Labor for Tomorrow

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-09-03

Economic downturns and even recessions have their virtues. They give businesses the chance to ask what value they are delivering to customers and what return they are earning on their own investments—including IT.

This years Labor Day occurs at what may be the low point of the current economic doldrums. Right now, there is plenty of news about layoffs, including IT staff, and there is very little noise about the ballyhooed, if sometimes doubted, IT labor shortage. So assessing the value of IT labor at this particular moment and demonstrating an understanding of that value are critical.

Above all, now is not the time to look at IT as merely a cost center and to hack at the IT budget accordingly. There are several things to keep in mind.

First, your best IT people are an immensely valuable strategic asset, as important as trade secrets. Just think of how hard it is to find good IT people when the economy is booming. Lose them, and youll face paying huge recruiting costs in a couple of years.

Second, there will be an upturn, but we dont know when. The right IT investments, made now and calculated to reap rewards in a couple of years, could make a huge strategic difference for your company. The IT staff with the brains and the skills to make these investments pay off will be directly responsible for your companys future success.

Third, you may think that management has the upper hand with regard to employees right now. But if IT workers leave because theyre unhappy, will your company allow you to replace them? If you cannot reward your people with bonuses, maybe you can find a way to make their load lighter and their jobs more fun.

Fourth, if your company is trying to cut expenses, remember thats one of the things IT was invented for. IT can automate processes and reduce the cost of repetitive tasks like nothing else. Make sure IT is cutting all the needless expenses that it can. Then look for new opportunities for cost cutting.

Just a year ago, those keeping an eye on the bottom line were suspected of lacking a commitment to e-business. Today, the bottom line rules. Its unrealistic to expect that you will have opportunities for spending that you had a year ago. Get used to it. Now is not the time to try to sell a risky, expensive multiyear project. However, you must continue to be an effective advocate. Your message should be that while IT is not omnipotent, it is not a whipping boy, either. Regardless of the health of the economy, that is—and always has been — a healthy approach to IT.

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