These days, good business sense is all about ensuring long-term survival by cutting costs—and some companies are doing this by cutting out all nonessential IT projects, focusing only on those that can produce immediate results and demonstrable return on investment. These projects, which Oracle’s top sales exec Keith Block calls “edge” applications, are relatively low-cost, rapid deployments that add incremental value to a company’s existing software infrastructure, and they should be part of every company’s immediate strategy. But it’s also critical that while companies are thinking about the strategies they’ll need to implement now to survive, they’re also ensuring that they’re poised to take off when the current global downturn ends.
This is not the time to abandon long-term thinking—at the most basic level, there may be elements of a long-term plan that can be integrated into more-immediate plans. As it becomes even more critical for executives to have a crystal clear view of costs, customers, and the competition, the value of business systems that provide comprehensive data about the total product and customer lifecycle becomes even more apparent. Companies that 2, 5, or even 10 years ago were starting to put those types of systems in place, that were starting to simplify complex technology infrastructures and standardize on a well-integrated platform of applications, are already ahead of the game. For any company, looking at existing plans and figuring out how to accommodate changes in the market within those plans makes more sense than scrapping them altogether.
It’s been a hard winter for a lot of people, but now (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) it’s spring. Things could still get worse before they get better, but this is traditionally a time of renewal. It’s a good time for everyone to look at their business and ask themselves whether there’s one thing they can change that will have a positive impact on the future of the business, whether it involves the company’s products, services, customer relationships, or the level of engagement that individual employees have with the company’s goals. Innovation and opportunity aren’t dead—they’ve just been stifled slightly by the weight of recent events—but companies that make it through this downturn will be populated by people who are realistic, yet capable of moving forward and recognizing—or creating—opportunity.
Margaret Terry Lindquist is editor in chief of Profit magazine.