Change your IT strategy to work smarter in the recession

By Jennie Leopard

The recession is pushing every organization, regardless of size, to find ways to work smarter. Companies both large and small need to reduce operating costs at the same time they continue to increase productivity, efficiency, retain a competitive edge, and stop that bottom line from shrinking.

How can you adapt your IT strategy in this economic downturn?

1. Sweating existing IT assets harder

A good place to start is by using the simplest and perhaps most humblest of today's business communication tools to reduce travel and associated costs while at the same time significantly increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations. We are talking about the telephone and using audio conferencing to slice huge chunks off your businesses running costs.

It is possible, in today's fast moving difficult business environment, to quickly and easily hold an audio conference. Organizations are able to bring together all the right people at the right time instantly without any of the participants having to leave their desks. This ability to meet when it is not possible or necessary to meet face-to-face, has perhaps never been so important.

The current financial climate means that it is imperative that organizations speedily cascade information throughout the business as situations arise and change. Audio conferencing allows you to keep your employees and stakeholders in the loop.

Cost effective audio conferencing solutions are available from specialist service providers that allow you to use their service with no set up charges and no monthly contract fee; each participant simply pays the cost of their phone call into the conference. Register online and your individual personal meeting room number is immediately e-mailed to you. To arrange an audio conference, there is no need to make a reservation just dial into the service, enter your personal meeting room number and ask the other participants to do the same. You are ready to hold a meeting.

2. Control IT expenditure

Closely examine your existing IT supplier contracts. A tough economic climate certainly adds considerable power to the purchaser's elbow. According to recent research carried out by analyst Forrester, more than two-thirds of CIOs are looking to negotiate lower rates with vendors. In particular you should look at service levels and determine if you actually need all that you are paying for?

Engage with your suppliers to establish ways in which they can help you reduce costs. For example, can they deliver appropriate service levels, and still continue to meet your requirements, at a lower cost?

Your communications supplier is a prime target. Review your call plans, price bundles, and check that your organization is on the optimum tariffs. Right now, a good supplier will want to keep your business even if it means a reduction in profit.

Also look hard at maintenance agreements and ensure you are happy to fund at current levels, it never hurts to demand a discount at renewal time.

Consider also standardizing your IT systems and suppliers. Allowing your staff to use a variety of laptops all running a plethora of applications, may well keep them happy, but adds complexity and importantly cost to the IT function.

The same applies to the use of mobile phones. Now is the time to limit choice and enforce standards as to what can and cannot be used. Consider a company-wide minutes and data bundle and drive a hard bargain.

Reassess existing IT projects. Determine which are a must do as opposed to a would-be-nice-to-do. Focus only on programs that will lead to short term productivity improvements or help with collecting cash. Don't upgrade for the sake of upgrading. Put your projects through a really vigorous return on investment process, treat every dollar spent as if it were your last! This will help decide if you want to continue with those projects that will reduce operating costs or if you should go ahead with projects that will help to drive up the bottom line or boost customer satisfaction in the short term.

3. Make the right IT investments

Although now is the time to take a close look at your IT projects, an economic downturn can be exactly when IT investment should take place. But investment should be made in technology that will deliver real business benefits i.e. reduce operating costs, improve cash flow, lower total cost of ownership, or deliver quality assurance programs to safeguard against reduced quality of service.

It will be companies with a reputation for delivering the highest level of customer service that will have the best chance of expanding quickly and capturing new market share as we reach the other side of the recession.

Jennie Leopard works in business development at conferencenow. This article first appeared on our sister site, BusinessZone

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