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IT isn't the answer

Ten things to cut in the recession, before you cut your marketing - no. 6 - IT

So there I was at my architect pal’s office, talking about the terrible state of the economy over a double-shot latte and some lovely little biscuits, when he said he’d just laid off his marketing resource.

“I read your piece”, he said, “you said to preserve your capability to actually do the work, so when it came to choosing between whether to cut a junior architect or the marketing manager, well, it was easy”.


I spluttered a little, but resisted the temptation to pour the latte over his stupid head and simply said “so, is that junior architect very busy then?” I could see, over his shoulder, that the team were playing with a new, elegant design of paper aeroplane, so I didn’t really need to wait for the answer.


Turning off the new-work tap, you see, is just as bad as removing your capability to do the work when you win it. “But what else could I have done?” he complained. Well.


No 6. IT Projects

I asked what he’d spent money on recently - reasonable sums. And after a bit of pushing and prodding, he remembered they’d just deployed version whatever of their favourite CAD system, and rejigged their server arrangements to speed access to archived files.

Now that’s very nice, and his architects can now work quicker. Sadly this means they finish all the available work at around 3 in the afternoon instead of 4.

I asked him why he’d done it - and the answer was revealing. It just seemed the right thing to do - the IT chappie was very persuasive about how much better it would be - he simply had to do it or fall behind.


Well, when it really comes down to the crunch, a lot of IT projects are conducted because the geek entrusted with running the service (because the management team can’t be bothered with understanding it properly) draws his motivation from running as near perfect a system as he can manage. Cutting-edge is his middle name.
Bleeding edge, is of course how it feels for the company. Top class IT systems cost money. So if you can get by with a second rate system while winning more work, and having more operational staff, then please do.

Ask yourself - are you uniquely differentiated from your competition because of your IT system? If the answer’s yes, you’re probably not really in construction. Will anyone die if you don’t upgrade as per the geek’s recommendation? And more importantly, will you win and perform more work if you keep both your Marketing Manager and your Operations people?


You know the answers.


Ross Sturley is a principal of Chart Lane, a strategy consultancy, and a member of the CIMCIG organising committee.