Hunting Down Opportunities in the Recession

Shrinking budgets and a challenging economy mean new opportunities for CIOs who can find ways to improve IT and for IT to improve the business.

Sandy Rasel, CIO Perdue Farms

Look for potential value, not possible cuts

Our industry has been impacted like many others with skyrocketing costs. My staff and I started brainstorming how IT can do its part to bring more value to the business for the IT services we offer. We had two objectives: Stop services that cost us money and bring little or no value, and find ways to enhance the value of the services provided. We focused on looking for a handful of good ideas, as opposed to a hundred, and we agreed that finding simple ideas could make a real difference to the entire company.

After several weeks, we were able to find $1.3 million in value opportunities. I met with each business unit executive to outline IT services and associated costs serving their needs. Among other benefits, this exercise found several services to stop. We also found value opportunities that helped IT streamline internal processes and gain organizational synergies. Our largest opportunity, called Service One, will yield more than $650,000 in savings annually. A key initiative this year, it will bring together multiple support organizations under the leadership of one IT executive. It will also offer standardized processes and templates, as well as self-service tools for resetting passwords, downloading sanctioned software and knowledge management opportunities.

Butch Leonardson, Senior VP and CIO, BECU

Focus on external customers

Looking at the turbulence in the banking system, my IT staff and I realized that this is the year to be as good as we can be. As consumers look for new banks, we have to be able to offer a compelling reason to come to us. I asked each of my managers to make sure that their teams have a crystal-clear understanding of the importance of having an outside-in passionate focus on customer service, rather than placing new technology at the center of any proposed initiative.

One area we're now focusing on is our partner channel. In this environment, reliable service is as important as cost control. We have many vendors with subcontractors, and by becoming better at managing those relationships, we can raise the service levels they provide. We are also challenging ourselves to manage our vendors holistically and with common policies, rather than incrementally, to improve reliability. This will not be as obvious a change for clients as, say, our new online and phone banking systems, but it will certainly improve services that touch our customers.

John Goslin, CTO, Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Look for potential value, not possible cuts

Charitable giving is disappearing along with budgets, yet when times are hard, families depend on their local club even more than before. That heightened mission and need is a constant factor in our decisions now, and IT needs to look for opportunities to invest in wisely. The primary area is participating in the organization's offensive efforts, which for us means fund-raising. We are pushing out best practices across the country, and these make real differences for individual clubs that wouldn't know where to go to get good ideas. We are leveraging online solutions that will make it easier for clubs to fund raise successfully, when the usual donors are cutting back on their contributions or stopping altogether.

On the defensive side, the clubs also need the technology that is already in place to be useful and stable, since we will not be undertaking many new initiatives to add products or features that people may want. We are having frank conversations with our service providers about opportunities that will enhance our employees' use of the technology without hurting the vendors' bottom lines, such as allowing our people to attend a vendor's internal training rather than paying for separate training.

Rasel, Leonardson and Goslin are each members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO magazine's publisher. To learn more visit council.cio.com.

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This story, "Hunting Down Opportunities in the Recession" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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