Peter Schroer is the founder, chairman and president of Aras, which provides product lifecycle management solutions. During the past two decades, Schroer has had manufacturing and engineering business roles at IBM, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Data General. Below are the issues topping Schroer's priority list.
1. Focus IT Projects on High-Value Business Goals
In 2008 the world changed. The credit crisis and financial industry meltdown have plunged the global economy into recession. Business leaders face a new reality that challenges shareholder value and profitability. Priorities have transformed overnight, bringing a new urgency to cost-cutting measures and initiatives that will drive the business forward in the face of economic uncertainty. IT leaders must look hard at alignment with corporate goals and think out of the box to accelerate projects that will help the company compete and even take advantage of the downturn.
2. Challenge the "Big Box" System Fallacy
Today, IT has to challenge the viability and logic of the "suite will do everything" mentality. The business can't afford that answer, and cannot wait two, three or four years for capabilities that the company needs now. IT executives in senior management must find new alternatives that are cost-effective and quick to deploy, or the CEO and board will find someone else who can deliver.
3. Leverage SOA to Cut Costs
One of the best ways to cut project costs and deliver results more quickly is to stop trying to rip and replace all of the old systems each time a new one comes along. Major replacements are long and expensive. With a smart SOA (service-oriented architecture) approach, companies can do more with less. Vendors have tried to frame the SOA concept in their terms to sell IT new packages; however, SOA is really vendor-neutral. It comes down to using XML and SOAP messaging to interface between or wrap around systems to expose and exchange information in new ways that provide more flexibility than was previously possible. Leverage previous investments by extending existing systems instead of buying something new and satisfy the business users more quickly in the process.
4. Expand the Use of Enterprise Open Source
Several years ago, open source meant Linux. Not anymore. These days, there are one or more high-quality open-source solutions in every software category. "Enterprise open source" typically means that a solution is sufficiently robust to compete directly with conventional proprietary offerings on functionality and capabilities, and that there is a company standing behind the solution to provide enterprise-class support and value-added services. The real business benefits of open source come from the licensing format that removes the up-front capital expense for licenses and enables companies to prove out solutions before committing.
5. Renegotiate the Big Contracts
When push comes to shove, everyone has to share the pain. When IT executives take a hard look at expenses to find savings, there are usually three to five line items in the budget that jump off the page. These are the major provider agreements that have been entered into in the past and now jeopardize corporate profitability. To achieve real savings, IT will need to renegotiate contracts of magnitude.