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12/26/2007
03:14 PM
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Three New Year's Resolutions For CIOs

It's the week before the new year, when we try to distance ourselves from that lingering platter of holiday cookies and contemplate what we'll do next year to live simpler, leaner, easier lives. For many CIOs, that will include taking a second look at 2008 IT spending plans.

It's the week before the new year, when we try to distance ourselves from that lingering platter of holiday cookies and contemplate what we'll do next year to live simpler, leaner, easier lives. For many CIOs, that will include taking a second look at 2008 IT spending plans.Most CIOs spent comfortably and within their initial projections in 2007, but that could be about to change. Economists warn of a rocky 2008, which has many rethinking the IT budgets they put into place weeks or months ago. Forrester Research recently yanked back a projection for IT budgets to grow by 8% in 2008 and replaced it with a more modest 4.6% projection. Following a story I wrote on this topic, I got an e-mail from Shaklee's Ken Harris, whom I find a particularly forward-thinking and thoughtful CIO. "More so than in many prior years, IT spending next year hinges on what happens on the economy," Ken concurred. "There's a lot of contingency in IT budgets as a result of the economic uncertainty."

But as visions turn from sugarplums to belt-tightening, it's wise to think strategically about what makes a healthy and lean 2008 IT spending plan. Here are a few of my suggestions for CIOs' New Year's Resolutions:

1) Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. That means working harder than ever to transform management's view of your department as a cost center to one that can generate money. What investments in technology or services could improve sales, profits, and cash flow? A smart data mining application could identify your company's most profitable customers and help marketing teams develop campaigns that keep them coming back. A business process outsourcing contract in an area such as accounting could be built around the promise of a shorter accounts receivable cycle.

2) Don't be afraid to try new things, such as subscription-based software (also known as software as a service) or server virtualization, that could potentially save your company lots of money. Baby steps are always possible for risk-averse CIOs.

3) Value your smartest and best employees, and let them know you value them early and often. Yes, personnel expenses are typically the biggest part of an IT budget, and people and their salaries are easy targets when times get tough. But people who understand your business and develop the smart, strategic applications and processes that improve customer relations, or deliver useful business intelligence, aren't people you can afford to go without. Don't forget, the IT profession enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the labor market, and many types of skills remain hard to snag.

Those are my suggestions for IT departments in 2008 -- what are yours?

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