Five Recession Survival Skills

It's a scary new world, but IT leaders who adjust can still prosper.

4. Driving Innovation

Many companies are so focused on survival right now that they're ignoring innovation, but, ironically, those that innovate will likely emerge the strongest, says Preeta M. Banerjee, an assistant professor of strategy at Brandeis University's International Business School.

"You need to recognize innovation as a source of value, and formalize your approaches," says Bob Zukis, a partner in the PricewaterhouseCoopers advisory practice.

As an example, he points out that the companies that are better at weathering today's economic storm are using cloud computing and social networking technologies to develop creative, cost-effective ways to deliver services.

You don't have to budget money for innovation to get results, Bethanis says. "You need to develop an innovation team. You be the sponsor, get them together and ask how they can brainstorm, collect and vet ideas better. And make some rules -- like the ideas have to be revenue-enhancing," she says. "It doesn't cost much in time or money to do that."

Moreover, involving your best employees in this kind of initiative will not only enhance innovation but also motivate and engage your people.

5. Marketing IT's Value

CIOs have to demonstrate -- even trumpet -- the value they add, says Dan Roberts, president of Ouellette & Associates Consulting, and a contributing author to Leading IT Transformation: The Roadmap to Success (Kendall Hunt Professional, 2008).

"Marketing is so critical today, and we need to understand that everyone from the CIO to our individual contributors is marketing the IT organization and creating perceptions of our value," he says.

Shouvik Dutta, CIO at Hart Schaffner Marx, a clothing manufacturer, says he believes his staffers and their successes have to be visible in order for IT to demonstrate its value. So he has his direct reports spend a half-day every two weeks working in the business units that they serve. This gives them insight into business needs while heightening IT's visibility, making others aware of its contributions.

For example, his workers recently recognized through this practice that the sales group needed better insight into the manufacturing side to do better forecasting. So IT delivered new applications that allowed sales to pull up the productivity data it needed.

CIOs who can refocus their skills to fit the current challenges can survive today's difficult environment and come out stronger when it's over.

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