by Maryfran Johnson

Glimmers of Hope

Jan 06, 20093 mins
Mergers and Acquisitions

CIOs find opportunities to shine in stormy economy

I’ve been on a quest for silver linings lately, for some shimmering upside in the stormy downside of this economy.

So I’ve been asking all the CIOs I talk with about their business outlook (hunkered down), IT spending plans (locked down) and overall expectations for 2009 (whittled down). CIOs across the country are reprioritizing business projects, tightening up on short-term cost reductions and looking for ways to optimize IT spending.

“None of us has experience with this kind of economy,” the IT chief of a global consumer goods company told me. “How can we have zero overhead growth while still maximizing value? The demands on IT aren’t going away.”

One CIO in the home building market summed up his world in this way: “The first six months of 2009 will be about survival and building up cash to meet our obligations. It’s about lifting up all the rocks and pebbles—deferring or cutting or just holding on.”

Yet both of these execs had encouraging news about that silver lining. They see this downturn having a cleansing effect on project backlogs and muddled business processes—a chance to “catch up, clean up and smarten up” in all the places where inefficiencies crept in. Like so many of you today, they also see competitive opportunities as business models shift, market rivals weaken and M&As take place.

For example, IT can make a huge difference in the success of a merger or acquisition. Our cover story, “Your M&A Survival Playbook,” offers valuable front-line experience from CIOs who’ve worked through multiple mergers and know how to prepare an IT organization for sudden M&A activity. You may be surprised to learn that the pressures of a “shotgun” merger—with its emphasis on integrating technology and teams of people as fast as possible—can work in IT’s favor.

One critical piece of advice in our merger story centers on the people aspects of managing through a momentous change. That felt particularly relevant here at CIO as we managed through the departure of our longtime friend and colleague, Editor in Chief Abbie Lundberg. Stepping into Abbie’s job is a daunting but wonderful honor. For an IT journalist who thinks CIOs are the most interesting people on the planet, there’s no greater place to be than this magazine. So don’t be strangers! Drop me a line anytime with suggestions, story ideas or a few silver linings of your own.