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Could IT be a casualty of the credit crunch?

It is physically impossible to pick up a newspaper at the moment without reading the words ‘credit crunch’ in the headlines.

I’m no economist but with food and fuel prices increasing, it’s becoming evident that people are pulling in their belts and counting the pennies much more carefully.

But when people ask me if I see the IT sector slowing down, the answer is in general no.

There may be a cutback in spending on the latest gadget for pleasure, like the new iPhone or the latest PSP, as there are with most luxury goods, but for core IT services the market is still holding its own.

And there is a reason for that. Technology has become one of the core parts of any business, perhaps even as essential as the people who do the job.

So for a large number of businesses, reducing their IT provision isn’t an option, but if your IT needs an upgrade but your business is feeling the pinch what can you do?

One of the first things I advise people to do is talk to an expert. Any IT specialist worth his or her salt will be happy to have a chat about your options with you for free and should provide full quotes before asking you to commit to any work.

Talk through with them how you use IT within your business, not just the processes you use technology for, but the way in which you work.

Let me give you an example: if you have a team of ten staff who all work from laptops and travel throughout the UK, is there any point in having a glitzy city centre office with desks for all of them?

Would it not be more practical to rent a smaller office, with meeting room space available on demand, outside the city centre and give all your staff the option to work from home?

Your staff would save time in commuting and you would save money in rent and a workforce who feels trusted and valued should work harder for you.

Your IT provider will be able to give you advice about the ways technology can be used to link these people together more effectively helping them to work smarter not harder.

If you need an office based workforce, spend some time with your consultant looking at the kit you have and how you currently manage it.

Start with the basics. You can’t afford to neglect essentials like software licences, maintenance of your server, regular back ups and training of IT staff.

All of these will cost you dear if you don’t invest in them and they go wrong.

Then take a look at the hardware you have in the office. Does it really all need to be upgraded at the same time, or could you swap computers so older machines are used in less demanding processes?

And examine the finance options available as outright purchase is not always the best way forward. There are far more flexible leasing options for computers, which mean you can upgrade them at the end of a contract, rather than having a large number of obsolete machines.

Try and plan ahead for what your business will be doing in the next two to three years and how technology will help you do that and forecast in possible costs, including a contingency fund.

And keep talking to your friendly expert and working with them to keep on top of these forecasts, because every business changes and the last thing you can afford to do is ignore your business’s demands.

Burying your head in the sand is one sure-fire way to become a casualty of the credit crunch.

Andy Dent

 

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