CIOs should take suppliers to McDonalds

The recession and resulting business volatility and uncertainty will present chief information officers (CIOs) with some of the most difficult situations they will have ever faced, warns Gartner.

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The recession and resulting business volatility and uncertainty will present chief information officers (CIOs) with some of the most difficult situations they will have ever faced, warns Gartner.

To prepare, CIOs should go into austerity mode and decline offers of an all-expenses paid trips to visit their suppliers. Instead IT leaders should take their vendor out to lunch to an inexpensive chain restaurant such as Pizza Express to "set a starkly thrifty tone", according to a 2009 resolution list for IT leaders released by the analyst firm.

Gartner urges decisive action by CIOs to survive 2009 under reduced budgets reinvest for strategic recovery in 2010.

“The unfolding economic crisis of late 2008 has created a more challenging situation than many businesses and most CIOs have ever experienced,” said Mark Raskino, vice president at Gartner. “They face a daunting and uncertain year ahead. Many CIOs have already been instructed to operate with lower budgets and many more expect such instructions. Chief executives need to cut short- term costs very quickly to cope with volatile market sentiment in many industries and countries, but without damaging recovery growth prospects.”

Cost cutting is the biggest challenge for CIOs this year, and IT leaders will need to "reset" their relationship with vendors to achieve more flexibility from their existing agreements, according to the analyst.

"Suppliers will be keen on staying in close touch, working hard to attract CIOs off-site for ‘face time’, so CIOs must resolve to politely decline vendor courtesy trips in 2009," said Gartner. Instead, "[CIOs] should identify the senior management leader in each of their key vendors, probably not the day-to-day account managers, and invite them to lunch or dinner at a chain restaurant venue that sets a starkly thrifty tone to discuss the value-driven cost optimisation that are required to deliver in 2009."

Other resolutions urge IT leaders to use social networking and collaboration tools to communicate internally and externally in order to "rebuild brand confidence, energise the company culture, develop ideas and refine solutions".

Another strategic move proposed by the analyst is to create an alumni network of experience people to maintain complex legacy skills, and identify new talent amid the thousands of IT workers now available in the market.

As large numbers of laid-off tech professionals flood the market, Gartner's Raskino said it is a "buyers market for some high-calibre IT talent". Gartner suggests that CIOs make better use of personal networking to identify ideal candidates for the most important mid to senior positions to fill during 2009, then discuss directly with the chief financial officer (CFO) and chief human resources manager the possibility of holding open some senior job slots in return for accepting higher headcount reduction target among more junior staff.

Some resolutions are aimed at helping CIOs prepare for the next wave of change. CIOs are told to " start leading their organisations" safely towards cloud computing, because "in 10 years, much of IT will be served this way," the analyst said.

CIOs should also lead by example, Gartner urged. "In tense times, leading by example matters more than usual - from body language to dress code, from vocabulary to attention-span. CIOs should design and adopt two or three key behaviours to match the required direction they want their reports to follow such as turning away their option to upgrade to the glitziest new smartphone. Such signals will cause people to comment and think about their own values and behaviours."

Raskino said: “It seems inevitable tough times will hit most sectors at some point in 2009, so CIOs shouldn’t wait for instructions to act. There’s plenty they can do to protect assets and thrive on the change opportunities – but they must start planning their way out right now."

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