Technology and the Down Economy 2

Wall Street is on fireCertain subjects seem to hit a nerve.  The last article I wrote about Technology in Down Economy  seemed to do just that from the response we received.  Interestingly, much of it came from Europe.  I am always amazed at the power of social media because within hours of sending out the article, I was getting contacted by people wanting more thoughts on the subject.  So here is a second round…

As I observe organizations girding their operations for a tougher economy, the layoffs are starting to come.   There is a right way, and a wrong way to decide what team members can be let go.  The wrong way is to just cut 10% across the board.  The right way is to evaluate each division of the organization and make a wise decision on the resources that can be lived without for a year or so.  The fascinating thing to me is that most leaders agree that the team is the most important asset an organization has, yet when times get tough, they look to cut the team apart as a survival strategy.  Alas, the reality is that some organizations have built up staff for the good times and simply cannot survive that heavy.

As it pertains to technology, it is critical to understand a few very important concepts before you let anyone go.  The first is that technology people are artists, and the construction of digital plumbing is an artistic process.  This is important to understand because artists are not that easy to replace.  I have seen companies lay off developers that they fought to get a year prior.  These developer/artists have a ton of institutional knowledge, and letting them go costs much more than the risk of keeping them.  The assembly of the digital plumbing is a step towards improved productivity so it is counter-intelligent to kick out the people that can deliver the productivity you need in order to lean out the white collar jobs.  Another point is that technology people spend years building and understanding the infrastructure and software in the organization.  When you let one go, you also lose very specific, and possibly unique knowledge that you will not get back very easily.  You can hire a replacement in a year, but it will take them months to learn what the last person knew.   Add to this the fact that technologists are normally supporting some of the innovative ideas that could actually help the organization prosper in the down times, and you have a pretty compelling argument for leveraging, not decimating, your technology staff in a downtime.

The bottom line is this…  In a downturn, organizations need to turn to the geeks and leverage theirs skills and talents to help the organization survive.  Letting them go is naive and dangerous.  Put them to work – make them improve productivity and support innovative and cheap technology usage that helps in the down times.  Use them to advance the cause.  They love to come to the rescue.  They love to use their artistry in valuable ways.  They are not ditch diggers to be disposed of when revenues fall back 10%…

Scott Klososky
scott@klososky.com

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