Recently (December’08), I had the opportunity to participate in a CFO/CIO panel with participants from New England SMB/mid-market businesses, organized by Managed Technology Partners. The topic of the panel discussion was ‘What key IT initiatives that are still being considered and issues to be considered in the decision-making processes’. Looking at the current turbulent economic conditions, SMBs and mid-market enterprises are under tremendous pressures. Most of them have never experienced these types of market conditions before. Given that, most of the panel members and attendees had a very positive attitude.
The discussion centered on not only the key IT initiatives in the current market environment but also some of the key consideration that need to be taken into account in the decision process.
Decision making process needs to take into account some key considerations:
- Cost containment – the need to preserve cash, decisions need to consider whether an initiative will save money or make money or both
- Focus on short-term ROI – The projects need to show short term ROI and support the cost containment focus, shift model to monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment
- Existing investment – Review existing system utilization and put together plans for getting the most out of them. This includes considering options like costs for running/managing/upgrading existing systems, virtualization to improve utilization, alternate solutions provide that could meet the cost savings focus, etc.
- Right-sizing – wanting to be sure right technology solutions are selected that match the business’ needs including longer-term viability
Existing IT resources – Expertise, utilization and availability to adequately support business needs
The key IT initiatives that made it to the top of the list are:
- The continued need for security (data and access) and business continuity solutions – this is especially important in the current environment as studies have shown that human error or intentional tampering are the leading cause of data loss.
- Providing remote access for users as the percentage of remote/Teleworkers increases
- Backup and recovery that is right for “my” business – the “availability” of data is critical
- Access (or lack of) to expertise and alignment of IT with the business
- Determining the right support models – that reduces costs and maintains up-time
- Vendor and VAR viability as part of the decision-making process
There was also conversation around the need for a strategic focus on IT and planning to ensure IT meet the business needs, both short and longer term. Also, to ensure technology decisions are part of a larger discussion that provides for better prioritization, opportunities for economies of scale, making sure decisions are not make in silos, and the financial impact as it relates to other initiatives and objectives.
We are in a period of unprecedented changes to the business climate that will challenge both vendors and solutions providers in ways never seen experienced in the past. To be successful, vendors and solution providers need to take a focused approach with solutions and messaging that address the above considerations and issue.