Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Shrinking Budgets...just focus

Budgets for Information Technology everywhere are shrinking. Does this mean that the business requirements that drove those budgets went away? No. In reality, during tough times, the business need for IT services and solutions tends to grow.

Why would the need grow when uncertainty and chaos abound? When times are good, the saying, "Easy come...Easy go" tends to govern the majority of companies...projects start...projects fail...projects succeed, it all works out in the big deal. However when the belt is tightened a notch or two, this is when the business actually begins to focus on how to really impact the bottom line and operate more efficiently.

How do you improve efficiency? DATA! I wrote a blog entry once on an internal company blog titled, "Data, Data everywhere. Not a drop of Information to drink" It highlighted the fact that too much data is useless without analysis and a framework to understand it in.  So...Who controls or is supposed to control all that data and turn it into information and eventually knowledge? The CIO...the IT department.

The business must adapt to this new environment quickly in order to survive and come out the other side stronger than ever. An excellent book on this subject: The Innovator's Dilemma  details how disruptive technologies redefined the competitive landscape.  In today's case, it is not disruptive technology so much as this disruptive economic downturn. Additionally, history has shown that hundreds of creative new companies start during every recession and of those new players could put you out of business with the disruptive technology they brought to the market!

Where do the answers lie? In the Data! Many of the companies highlighted in the above book and other similar books, show that, had the company been able to analyze and understand the data they had access to (either internally or externally), they could have potentially averted disaster and emerged a leader in their space. The challenge is that we are awash in thousands of gigabytes of data, how do you make sense of it all? This is where a Knowledge Management Strategy comes into play.
Data -> Information -> Knowledge
That sounds big, complicated and expensive!  But the amazing thing is that this does not need to be complicated.  Sure in the hey day we would make this into a multi-million dollar transformation project.  But by using simple needs analysis techniques, combined with a modest amount of initial research, you will generate multiple targets (more than your budget can support). The Criticallity and Priority can be quickly accomplished by bouncing these targets off the strategic plan. See...we looked at the data, mixed in needs, added in some context (strategic plan) and our raw data became information and then turned into knowledge. Now we know what really needs to be done first during this economic downturn. Start small and iterate quickly...agility is key.

Not sure where to start, download, install and open Xmind or FreeMind. Get 6-10 stakeholders in the room and start talking...a map will emerge within 2 hours. Allow someone a couple of hours to clean up the verbiage and layout and have a follow-on one hour meeting for fine tuning. You got your plan. Now using that plan focus your reduced resources on it and execute...your company, your bottom line and the team will thank you.

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