Doing More with Less: Making IT Count in Challenging Times

Jim Bates, Director & CIO, State of Alaska
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Jim Bates, Director & CIO, State of Alaska

Have you ever felt like you’ve done so much with so little for so long that you are now qualified to do anything with nothing? It seems that in spite of the humor there resonates an element of truth in that question.With more demand for the services that Information Technology (IT) provides, and the increased cost of  the resources required for delivering those services, one would think poses a challenge enough.

But add to that financial impacts resulting from sequestration, economic downturns, increased operating costs (i.e. healthcare), tighter budgets, and more scrutiny from senior executives and you get the recipe for this article’s title. Then as if doing more with less didn’t prove daunting enough for technologists to solve add to the equation the environment that it must be solved in one of complexity and change brought on by globalization, digitization, and consumerization.

“People are the most important asset that an organization has and it refers to customers, stakeholders and those who make up the workforce”

The following list provides a plethora of “Ps” to ponder when asking, “Can I do more with less”? And while these concepts are nothing new to most of us I believe that a reminder will serve to challenge IT leaders that we can be more effective and efficient there is always room for improvement.

Purpose: IT Leaders must understand the mission, vision, and strategic direction of the business. The Roman philosopher Seneca once wrote: “our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”

Priority: When we have purpose, prioritization is much easier. Be proactive and not reactive in the work you initiate. Ensure alignment to organizational goals and purpose. Clearly articulate priorities to staff. Do the right thing, for the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.

Price: How competitively priced are your products and/or services? Is your chargeback effective? Focus on the value proposition. What do your customer’s get in terms of what they pay for?  If you were the customer, would you buy from you? Why?

People: People are the most important asset that an organization has and should be respected as such. People can refer to your customers, stakeholders and those who make up the workforce. Understand your customers and their requirements. Support and empower your staff to meet the strategic goals while understanding the priorities.

Process: Recent studies have shown that 53 percent of organizational work is non-value-added. To meet the definition of value added the product or service must meet or exceed the needs and requirements of your customer (the recipient of the product or service). Something must be done during the process step to change the product or service, and finally it must be done right the first time. How efficient are your processes? In other words, how well do you manage your resources in meeting your customer’s requirements?

Partners: Get the right Partners and not just sales quotas, but strategic partnerships in solving business problems. If you are being required to do more with less, find partners that understand this and are willing to do the same.

Products: Are you using the right technology? It really is all about the business. Be wary of the technologist who resists change because of the unknown but remain cautious of new fads that have not yet been vetted for business value. Companies are diverse and what works for one may not be the answer for another.

Projects: IT still has the worst scorecard for getting projects completed on time and on budget. Adopting best of breed project management processes can greatly increase effectiveness and efficiencies. Look at your organization’s portfolio, program, and project management practices. Can you do more with less?

There are other “P” words that come to mind while ensuring success when meeting these challenges. Although we won’t be able to discuss them in this article, I have listed a few for reflection: Patience, Persistence, Performance, Production, Politics, and Pride (both good and bad) to name a few.

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