How Can IT Managers Survive?

by Jay Deragon on 12/08/2008

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Today Dow Chemical announced a layoff of 5,000 employees due to the economic downturn. Tomorrow and the days after we are likely to see a lot of other BIG firms cut their workforce.

While all job functions are at risk one wonders how the IT departments will survive the downturn given the typical misunderstanding of value that IT departments bring to organizations.

Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief of Tech Republic writes: During the last global recession in the early 2000s, IT took a major hit in terms of both headcount and annual budgets. That was because many companies had overbuilt their IT infrastructures and placed too much blind faith in IT projects. Today’s IT departments tend to be leaner and much more ROI-focused, and in most places technology is even more integrated into business processes and operations than ever before.

As a result, in response to the current global recession many IT leaders are making the case to their chief executives to let them help bring down company costs by using technology to help automate and streamline tasks. This was reflected in the Society of Information Management’s 2008 Survey.

Jerry Luftman, the SIM director who led the survey, said, “Companies are looking at IT as a lever to cut costs in other parts of the business… Here is IT’s chance to shine. Here’s their chance to make lemonade out of lemons.”

Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic. Previously, he worked as an IT Manager in the health care industry. Read his full profile. You can also find Jason Hiner on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How Can Social Media Save IT Jobs?

The science of social media is centric to understanding how to use social technologies for numerous purposes. Much attention has been paid to the marketing and public relations function of social media however there has been little emphasis on the value of social technology to internal operating cost. It would be advantageous for IT managers to demonstrate and evangelize how social media can actual reduce operating cost by optimizing communications, customer service, market relations and last but not least lower the cost of IT investments. The challenge for IT managers is to realize that their jobs have changed and today IT is more centric to using technology to create and distribute media. In other words IT is no longer a technology silo or a hole where money is poured rather IT is about optimizing media for business benefits.

Social technology is disrupting traditional media and fundamentally made every individual and every business, regardless of product or service, into a media company first and foremost. Individual and collective voices are a form of media. Words and images expressed in and through social network profiles, social media tools and conversational exchanges represent a form of media. However this new form of media has greater reach and stronger impact than traditional media. When used effectively and efficiently, the return on efforts far exceeds traditional media methods.

Everything people say and do within the “social cloud is an extension of a message which can hinder or enhance business objectives. The difference between hindering and enhancing represents a focus on strategic objectives which could be accomplished by using social media. The five strategic objectives of any business are:

  1. Improve Brand Awareness within specific markets
  2. Increase business development opportunities
  3. Enhancing competitive differential
  4. Expanding market relations
  5. Converting relationships into revenue growth and improved market positions

Social media is a means of accomplishing 1 – 5 above. However learning and leveraging social media effectively is not merely an extension of old IT mediums and methods rather the rules of the game have changed as have the tools of the trade. The art and science of engaging in markets of conversations requires new skill sets, new knowledge and new tools all centric to understanding and leveraging the disruptive nature of social technologies. For IT departments to survive the economic downturn they must embrace the message, the means and the medium and view the related technology as tools that can reduce cost and improve revenue not to mention possibly save their jobs.

To win or even survive in today’s economic condition IT managers must dramatically increase the multiple of value they bring, and not just the technology, to the organization. The term network optimization goes way beyond technological optimization and now includes the optimization of a network of people who can create new value while reducing the cost of using old methods. The new question soon to be heard from executives will be “What is your multiple?” In other words how does your position multiply value and reduce cost in a networked world.

Get it? What say you?

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