Recession Or No, We Are In It For The Long Haul

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While all around are making short term decisions, you have to keep you head, and make sure your long term goals are still in the picture, says Jonathan Steel

For every project on which you are currently engaged, score them red (negative), amber (neutral) or green (positive) against these three factors. Cut any that show more than one red light; consider how to justify any that show a single red light; the rest are probably OK.

This is a very simple approach, and clearly you could hire a major consultancy to do a complicated multi-dimensional whizz-bang score card for £50,000 or more. But you can try the traffic light approach for free and you’d be surprised how useful it is in marshalling your thinking.

2. What capabilities are important to your organisation? Most people think that their organisation is different – it usually isn’t, at least in the broad sense. HP has cut the number of research projects it is undertaking and is focusing on eight main themes covering things like analytics, the cloud, information management and sustainability. All of those subjects are important in creating what Bathwick calls an ‘enduring organisation’. Over the next few months, this column will look at different parts of our Enduring Organisation ModelTM and consider why each is important to surviving this downturn, and thriving again when the upturn arrives.

3. Make sure that tactical decisions don’t move you further away from your ultimate goal. CEOs are always coming up with new ways to make their IT managers’ lives difficult. More important than ever is the ability to manage upwards, to ensure that your strategic objectives are not derailed by otherwise well-meaning guidance.

Finally, last week was rich in quotes about short-termism. Speaking to the FT, ex-GE CEO Jack Welch said it was “a dumb idea” for executives to focus so heavily on quarterly profits and share price gains. What? “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy”. Thirty years too late Jack, but spot on.

PS: If you do try the traffic-light approach, please let me know what results you got (confidentially) – I am steadily gathering outcomes from organisations across Europe.

This is the first of a series of columns on business sustainability from Jonathan Steel, CEO of consultants The Bathwick Group. Follow him on Twitter.