IT Budgeting and Planning for Productivity and Resiliency

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Some Steps Could Take Resilience Backward when Focusing on a Potential Recession

Achieving resiliency is so important that the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) developed an entire guide on the topic to help organizations build out their own infrastructure resiliency plan.1

In the end, it’s about anticipating and managing risk to ensure productivity throughout the organization, even when something serious happens to business operations.

With the looming recession, now’s a good time to stop putting this activity off; it’s best to do the work now to ensure the business is prepared to deal with changes in the market that can impact them:

  • directly: such as reduced revenue and the resulting cuts in the budget
  • indirectly: such as a critical partner going out of business or quality issues in supply chain delivery

IT leaders, practitioners, and consultants will have many things cross their minds when they think about productivity and resiliency, especially when connected to the potential for an economic downturn.

Let’s explore some of their concerns and myths because some actions may actually have the reverse effect, making the business less resilient.

Modifying perceptions of productivity and efficiency

Budget cuts that reduce app licenses, eliminate “redundant” tools, and decrease the number of staff will change the landscape for how IT teams operate and perform. Leaders must remember that changes to operations and workflows—even if done indirectly through reductions in tools and changes in the team structure—require a re-evaluation of:

  • how teams and individuals perform their jobs
  • additional manual steps introduced due to a reduction in tools, data, or automation
  • the introduction of human error due to a lack of operational/technical/managerial guardrails
  • potential churn introduced by disruptions to team communication or collaboration

While trimming may seem like a good, if necessary, activity, the downstream results could also cause more harm than good.

Investing in technology and apps isn’t straightforward

Yes, you can outsource expert staff to cover a project. It’s also true that you can capitalize on the hardware your organization procures. But budgeting for staff and equipment is different from budgeting for apps, most of which are offered only as a service and can’t be capitalized.

Also, the idea that you can buy one tool to replace two to reduce expenditures doesn’t always fly. Current operational processes likely require the entire feature set available in all the products the organization currently uses.

This can challenge how business leaders view investments in IT as they are no longer one-shot costs that can be written off. Instead, most apps and services come with recurring costs that never seem to come off the books. IT leadership must get creative in analyzing and presenting this information to the executive leadership team.

One natural reaction might be to cut back on the number of apps and subscriptions. If this is a path being explored, the outcomes must be assessed by balancing the near-term cost savings with long-term resiliency.

Automation isn’t a silver bullet

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025, automation and a new division of labor between humans and machines will disrupt 85 million jobs globally across 15 industries and 26 economies.2 Sounds good, right?

Sure, but many find this is not entirely believable. And, even if true, it’s still a few years into the future.

Looking at things from today’s operational and budgetary perspective, the premise that you can automate everything to minimize staff waste isn’t always the case.

Sure, there may be economies of scale hidden in there. Still, human interaction is almost certainly required at some point in the process. If you decide to take this journey, do so with your eyes open and be honest with yourself, your team, and the business regarding what you want to accomplish.

The realities of burnout are upon us

Being overworked, stressed out, and overwhelmed is real. While some may question the definition of “burnout” in terms of the level of being overwhelmed and for how long, many IT leaders accept that burnout is also real. Many also believe it is inevitable if they expect their staff to continue to do even more with even less.

As IT staff takes on more work, they eventually feel the burden. At some point, that load transitions to stress and then burnout. Ultimately, the team is dealt a massive blow to morale and productivity.

This is unavoidable, but IT leadership must clearly define the stress points, which line(s) might be crossed, and which events could flip a stressful situation to burnout. Burnout can result in less resilience for the team and for the company. Full stop.

A strong leader makes all the difference

The answer to most of these challenges comes down to strong leadership. This extends beyond an environment and culture that tackles the employee experience head-on to one where the staff has the leadership team’s fully-transparent vision, direction, and support.

While there will be ambiguity in the potential economic downturn, answering questions and minimizing angst is crucial throughout the organization—even if the leadership team must honestly answer even the most challenging of questions or expose potential areas of weakness in themselves or the company. The executives must entrust IT management to make the best decisions for the operations that support the business based on the information provided if they want the team to be productive … and remain resilient.

  1. Infrastructure Resilience Planning Framework (IRPF), CISA, October 2021
  2. Recession and Automation Changes Our Future of Work, But There are Jobs Coming, Report Says, World Economic Forum, October 2020