Anticipating the Worst

Right now the incoming Obama administration is working with the Bush administration to make sure that the country has a smooth transition to the new government in January. This is especially important given the many problems facing the nation right now. Of course, the same problems that the country is facing are leading to lots of transitions at many businesses. And while the majority of people who voted for Barack Obama will be happy to see a change in government, the changes that are happening and will continue to happen in companies everywhere are much less welcome. Recently, a large number of businesses have seen layoffs--often on a massive scale. We'll likely see more layoffs down the road and, in many cases, employees won't find out about these layoffs until the day they actually happen.

Jim Rapoza

Right now the incoming Obama administration is working with the Bush administration to make sure that the country has a smooth transition to the new government in January. This is especially important given the many problems facing the nation right now.

Of course, the same problems that the country is facing are leading to lots of transitions at many businesses. And while the majority of people who voted for Barack Obama will be happy to see a change in government, the changes that are happening and will continue to happen in companies everywhere are much less welcome.

Recently, a large number of businesses have seen layoffs--often on a massive scale. We'll likely see more layoffs down the road and, in many cases, employees won't find out about these layoffs until the day they actually happen.

That's why, like the federal government, all IT departments should be planning for their own transitions. These layoffs will involve lots of extra work for IT in the form of collecting data and systems and shutting down accounts and access. And, as IT departments most likely won't be immune to layoffs, day-to-day issues and vital projects will have to be addressed with less staff and fewer resources.

For those lucky (or unlucky) enough to remain after a massive layoff, having a good plan in place can help to alleviate some of the many headaches and problems sure to arise.

It's definitely important to have a detailed list of all regular tasks, servers and systems, as well as all key enterprise applications. Who knows how to manage and access these systems, and are there any areas in which one person has all of the information? Everyone has heard of corporate nightmares where the one person who knows how to do Important Task X leaves disgruntled. Make sure that all key access routines, passwords and management procedures are well-documented.

Also, take a close look at any development and upgrade projects that are under way. Company cuts can affect these projects in many ways. In some cases, internal staff will be cut, forcing projects or parts of projects to be outsourced to external developers. In other cases, budgets for external consultants will be slashed and internal developers will need to take on a larger amount of work. Either way, having a well-maintained code repository, detailed logging and code comments, and, hopefully, a properly used project management system can ease the development process.

These are just a couple of examples of the changes that layoffs can force on IT departments. And while no amount of preparation can make up for the losses in knowledge and productivity that layoffs can cause an IT operation, thinking ahead can help companies avoid giving more headaches to the staff left behind.

So, take the time to make sure that your IT operation is ready for the layoffs and cuts that are almost certainly coming (if they haven't already). Just like the Obama administration, your department doesn't a need a rough transition to add to the problems it will have to deal with in the coming months.

Because, although it is very unwelcome, layoffs and cuts represent a change that is coming to many companies. You can count on that.