IT Guide to Handling a Recession

Written by Mike Ranellone on April 25, 2020

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As we enter a global recession, IT admins don’t have a proven playbook they can turn to for advice on how to handle what’s happening. Top it off with a global pandemic currently underway, and the truth is that nobody is prepared for this type of situation. Our first impulse might be to keep frantically treading water as long as we can, but the right move is to pause, take a step back, and build a thoughtful plan for how to handle the recession. 

Too often, organizations either panic during a high-stress event, or they might ignore it, thinking that it will go away and just be a speed bump along the way. IT is in a unique situation during this time because they’re responsible for keeping the organization’s digital life operating and secure no matter what. With modern organizations so reliant on their IT networks, IT admins know that despite what’s happening in the markets or even at the organization, their roles are critical to how an organization handles the situation. 

Once the dust from the initial push toward remote work has settled, this becomes an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and help shape your organization’s strategic response. Here’s how.

Assess Your Situation and IT Priorities 

Now that you’re in the deep end of the pool, you’ll need to quickly assess your organization’s status, your team, and the current set of priorities. Priorities from a few months ago may no longer represent the best use of limited resources, and projects that once seemed distant may come with more immediate necessity now. It’s critical to slow down for a moment and take stock of everything, deeply understanding all of the inputs into the problem you need to solve before you move forward. This can be frustrating because the right move may be to postpone a project you’re passionate about while dedicating resources to another that feels less exciting, but where the payoffs can be significant. 

Initiatives that automate processes or save money by consolidating vendors can be especially valuable, and may garner more support than larger expansions that take longer to return value. Manual user management can be cumbersome in a remote environment, for example, so a plan to automate provisioning and deprovisioning could gain traction and free your team up to work on higher-value projects.

Narrow the Scope to Essential Outcomes 

During a recession, the ability to focus and stay on target becomes critical. There are too many different battles to fight, and not every project will continue to be funded. The more you can determine what’s essential and take the lead by focusing on those areas, the better. Think of this as a call to develop and demonstrate your business skills combined with your IT expertise: If you can quickly create a plan for the most critical outcomes that you need to deliver, you’ll be prioritizing funding and resources where they matter most. Consider the following when determining a project’s urgency: 

  • Overall cost plus time to value, with emphasis on short-term returns. 
  • Increased efficiency: Can you make the case that a given project will save labor hours in the long run? 
  • Stakeholders across the organization: Who outside of your department benefits most from the project?  
  • Impacts on security and continuity: Initiatives to protect data and improve resiliency should stay at the top of the list.  

Build Internal and External Partnerships  

During a time of intense pressure and stress, allies both across your organization and outside it can be important sources of feedback and support. Internally, the goal is to build a coalition of people beyond your immediate team who buy into your vision for what needs to happen and understand how they can help. Make sure that they know you appreciate their support, and together, you’ll be able to make progress and influence decisions. Outside of your organization, this is a good time to make sure your priorities align with customer needs, and you’re getting the right value from vendors and contractors. Your extended team is far more critical right now than at any other point in time.

Overcommunicate With Teammates and Stakeholders 

As IT professionals, our first impulse may not always be to slow down and explain things in great detail to stakeholders who may not be on the same page from a technical perspective. But the more you can communicate your plans and progress during challenging times, the more support you’ll earn. Especially after you’ve reached agreement on your goals, you can foster confidence in your team by leading with information and making sure that every relevant person is aware of those goals and gets updates on the progress being made. When stakeholders outside your team have a clear understanding of how your work fits into the bigger picture, you can make a great deal of positive progress even in difficult times.

Interested in more tips and conversations on how to navigate different situations in IT? Check out our new Where’s The Any Key? podcast, hosted by our own IT admin, Ryan Bacon. 

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