The following article is associated with a JumpCloud webinar on IT tactics in times of economic uncertainty. Watch the full webinar here.
What effect does economic uncertainty have on IT admins? How can they set their companies up for success without knowing what’s to come?
These are just a few of the tough questions we tackled in our recent webinar, “How IT Admins can Persevere Despite Economic Uncertainty.” The webinar featured a panel of leaders, including Gary Reiner, Operating Partner, General Atlantic, and JumpCloud’s own CEO Rajat Bhargava and CFO Michelle DeBella.
So what can IT admins to despite such a murky future? You’ll have to read on to find out.
Uncertainty Can Lead to Opportunity
It’s undeniable that our business environment is moving into a cycle of economic uncertainty. But Bhargava advises to look for the opportunities these ebbs and flows provide.
“In 2001, there was a lot of investment in the internet that went to a new level,” he said. “In 2008, which was an incredibly tough time, a lot of companies were created around the cloud. And then you go to 2020, and obviously COVID sparked a whole new world of remote work.”
Bhargava sees this next change as an opportunity for a more global workforce. “With the Ukraine war and inflation, I would postulate that we are now going to be one workforce, one world economy, in a much more significant way than we have been before,” he said.
Reiner agreed. “If you look at 2001, you have the growth of the Google’s and the Amazon’s of the world,” he said. “If you look at 2008, that’s when the Uber’s and the Airbnb’s made their way. And if you look at [the pandemic], the JumpCloud’s and the Zoom’s and other [remote platforms] really prospered then. Whenever there’s something troubling going on in the world, there’s also opportunity.”
But, of course, recessions aren’t all about opportunity. Your company also has to have a plan in place to deal with them.
“[Dealing with a difficult economy is] about knowing your people, your process, your tools, and what’s a priority for your business,” said DeBella. “If you’re trying to do too many things, particularly in a difficult economy, that’s where things get really, really tough.”
Bhargava agrees. “The most important thing is understanding what’s most critical for your organization, and narrowing that focus to be really great at whatever it is that you do,” he said. “Once you’ve got everybody aligned, then you’re just there to execute. It’s possible to navigate these times well with discipline and effort.”
How to Evaluate Technology in Uncertain Times
Many companies want to rush to scrutinize IT costs or evaluate purchases in economic downturns in an effort to cut costs. DeBella has some advice around that process.
First: Figure out what you must have to succeed as a business, using ruthless prioritization to focus only on your most critical functions. “Before you think about spending even a dime on technology purchases, think about what to get rid of that’s not driving productivity or value creation,” she said.
Next: Look for multipurpose technology. “If you’ve got a tool that can solve multiple challenges, and if it does that across multiple teams, it’s super valuable, particularly in uncertain times when IT costs get under scrutiny,” she said. “Choose partners who respect your need for operational flexibility and can work with other tools you may add in the future, particularly if you’re still growing and scaling.”
Then: Negotiate with your vendors for a better deal. “Don’t be afraid to give something to get something,” DeBella said. “Be willing to give them a little bit longer contract in exchange for better pricing. They’re looking to lock-in customers through times of uncertainty, too.”
While DeBella is a fan of this method of “ruthless prioritization,” she said there’s three critical areas she won’t compromise on:
- Automation: “In downturns, the first thing companies focus on is not expanding their talent pool. But, you still have to get work done, which is where automation comes in.”
- Enablement: “This is when you need to make your teams their most productive, because we need to get the most out of every single person. Figure out what those groups need to be successful to reach the priorities you’ve chosen.”
- Compliance and Security: Keeping your products and investments safe is a timeless priority. “That’s not the place you cut back on,” said DeBella.
These three areas are where she sees IT admins being able to go back to to help their companies navigate any uncertainties. Admins can help leaders frame their thinking around the tools they manage, and suggest ways to make the workforce more productive.
“The great thing about automation is machines will be working 24 hours while we’re sleeping and doing other things,” DeBella said. “If you can bring those opportunities to your business teams, you are going to be able to help your company come out of a recession stronger, more resilient, and able to scale more quickly than your competitors.”
Bhargava adds that, though you may limit your technology budget, recessions aren’t the time to completely take your foot off the gas.
“In F1 racing, they say it’s tough to pass one car on a sunny day, but in the rain, you can pass 15 cars,” he said. “Assess who your competitors are. [During a recession], some of them are going to pull back so much that you can actually overtake them, because they’re afraid of hitting that wall. But you may know what needs to happen, and have a lot more confidence that you can go make that happen.”
Watch the Full Webinar Today
There’s much more to this story than what we’ve shared here. Our panel also discussed IT admin job prospects during economic downturns, and what MSPs should expect. To get the full story and hear more from our panelists, watch the webinar here.