If you’ve been following the news, you might have noticed some alarming updates about the economy. Corporate profitability is slumping, the income gap is widening, and consumer debt is escalating. Some analysts have speculated a recession could be looming.
Layoffs are often more likely than job growth during a recession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting an increase in technology jobs in the next eight years; however, many of the positions could be outsourced or concentrated in specific industries. If you’re in IT, you should plan on having a discussion about how to do more with less.
Now, we’re not talking about cutting the entire IT department down to one poor person taking calls between network outages. (We wouldn’t do that to a colleague!) But changes may be necessary if budget cuts are made—even if they aren’t, a lean, efficient IT department can give you a great competitive edge.
How do you become more effective—and avoid cutting too much?
Here are a few tips:
Map Out Your Costs
You have to know what you’re spending before you can decide whether to scale back. The more detail, the better. You’ll want to know how much you’ve spent on that server room, plus the HVAC to keep it cool, plus the labor for a team to manage it, plus the electricity to keep it running, plus software updates and maintenance or repairs. By comparison, if those same services were hosted in a cloud, those incidentals would be spread out among several users, and you could be paying a fraction of your costs.
Look For Repetitive Tasks
Having two people doing the same thing isn’t necessarily bad. For example, two people on the phone all day taking help desk calls is probably a good thing. You might even need a third. But employees calling the help desk every day because of a lost network drive is definitely an opportunity for improvement. In the latter case, you’d want to diagnose the root cause of the issue. If it’s a glitch, fix it. If it’s a training issue, invest a little time getting employees updated on proper procedures.
We know that to some, “outsource” is a dirty word. However, outsourcing can make the difference between a smooth, efficient business and a clunky, wasteful one. Consider renting server space and storage in the cloud. Hire a firm to write and maintain your website. Contract with a help desk company. Keeping an expert on the payroll can get pretty expensive; hiring one only when it’s needed can reduce labor expenses dramatically. (Companies don’t usually keep a plumber on staff for the occasional leaky toilet.)
Look For Elegant, Cost-effective Solutions
Unless you’re a really tiny shop, it probably makes sense to keep an IT guy on staff for local issues. Maybe it costs less to buy an extended warranty on your computers and let the manufacturer handle support; you get a computer, ongoing repairs and a help desk. Consider using software as a service (SaaS)—monthly fees might be easier to absorb than bulk license purchases. (You get software, a lower price point and ongoing updates and support.) Take note: Each of these ideas is a way to make one solution work for multiple pain points.
Doing more with less doesn’t have to be a nightmare. But it does take strategic planning and smart implementation. So—much like defusing a bomb in a spy movie—it’s a bad idea to start cutting without a plan.