In any situation, maintaining service quality for a department or company is an uphill battle. Across industries, in this digital era, a company’s tech needs are only growing more complex. But all-too-often their IT department’s budgets aren’t increased at a rate that matches all the added responsibilities and software demands.
With the upset to the U.S. and global economy due to the pandemic, we see more companies tightening their belts due to a loss of revenue or preparing for a long recession.
So how can an IT department maintain service quality with a less-than-ideal budget? Many strategies depend on the financial condition of your company: whether you’re in survival, lean, or growth mode. We’ll define these modes and offer suggestions based on where you’re at.
Overall, in anything other than survival mode, there’s a strong case to be made for investing in new technology. And we’ll explain why.
In survival mode, the IT budget is shrinking because not enough revenue is coming in to support it or your company is in the red. IT is facing hiring freezes, once approved projects are being reconsidered or need to be downsized, etc.
In survival mode, you’re focused on your company’s survival, and you simply can’t do everything you want to do. The most important thing is for your department to maintain complete transparency about what you’re capable of. Don’t give false expectations. Explain what your priorities are: anything that helps the company bring in revenue and is critical to the company’s operations.
This situation may require guerrilla techniques, some of which might not be sustainable in the long term, but they’ll get you through.
This is a good time to encourage your staff to educate themselves:
- Use interns or training managers to create a knowledge base full of links to how-to videos.
- Make it a policy to ask employees if they’ve looked to the KB for answers before coming to the rescue.
- Recruit tech-savvy employees in each department to act as first-line help, understanding their plates are already full. If there’s any way to offer benefits for extra duties such as bonuses, this can be a workable option.
- If you are hiring new employees, work with HR to make certain characteristics important in the hiring process, such as a background in the software you use internally, a fearless approach to technology, a willingness to find answers on their own.
How to maintain backend software critical to operations:
- Put support of any non-operations-critical software on hold.
- Freeze new development. Pull developers off of projects to help with system and security maintenance.
In lean mode, there might be less money coming in, but you’re not in a crisis. Or you’re a newer company and haven’t reached your revenue goals. Your company is cutting off excess fat or reconsidering funding sources in order to remain profitable.
In this situation, your priorities might be split between maintaining operations-critical software and building software with revenue possibilities. Or your company might have halted all new development.
- Work on long-term solutions, such as investing in training and requiring depts/divisions to pony up for external support for non-mission-critical tools.
- For companies where there are multiple IT teams supporting different divisions or departments, now is the time to focus on collaboration whenever possible.
- Negotiate the cost of software licenses & new equipment.
- If you’re not working on new systems, now is a good time to replace the biggest time sink (faulty server, legacy system). It might mean some upfront costs, but it’ll free up your team’s time in the long-run.
- Get real about staff with limited knowledge. Make smarter hires and consider replacing team members that aren’t well-rounded.
- Consider outsourcing maintenance to reduce internal salaries.
In growth mode, ideally, your company’s executives see the benefit of leaning into IT for R&D and software and hardware investments that improve operations. The focus is on revenue-building, not maintenance, but of course, your team is responsible for both.
But if there’s an increase in revenue and/or new product or service offerings, and the executives don’t see the benefit in increasing your budget, that’s a problem. But unfortunately, it happens. Higher-ups don’t always understand the correlation between internal technology support and their overall company’s well-being and ability to grow.
If your company is thriving, but your department isn’t seeing the benefit, you’ll need to invest in whatever you need to document your department’s worth: reporting tools, consulting services, etc.
- Consider how major changes like moving to cloud or enterprise solutions could benefit employees. Even if better technology could reduce the strain on your helpdesk team (possibly your main goal), that’s not what you need to convince the higher-ups. They’ll be more interested in how performance improvements through this technology could lead to less staff turnover and increased revenue.
- It doesn’t matter if your company is in lean or growth mode, good will come from rethinking hiring practices and your team’s make up.
- If you feel confident in your team, invest in them through training and team building.
- Free up developers’ time to focus on new development by outsourcing system maintenance tasks.
Why Invest in New Projects on a Tight Budget or During a Recession
When your IT budget is already strained or you’re carefully watching what’s happening with the U.S. economy, it may seem counterintuitive to start new projects or invest in new technology. How can new investments help maintain service quality?
Obviously, it’s easier to support systems that aren’t crashing all the time, for example. If an older server or legacy system is proving a major time sink for your sysadmin team, then it’s going to improve your service quality if you replace it.
But beyond these obvious examples, there’s a case for investing in software that increases the productivity of the company, even when less revenue is coming in.
When economists looked at companies that thrived during the Great Recession, one trend they found was an investment in technology. There were a few theories behind this. One is that having the right technology in place can make your company more flexible: “Improved analytics can help management better understand the business, how the recession is affecting it, and where there’s potential for operational improvements,” Katy George, a senior partner at McKinsey, told Walter Frick for the Harvard Business Review.
Another reason, Frick covered, is that optimizing technology helps make companies more agile. George explained that digital technologies “create much more flexibility around product changes, volume changes, etc., as well as around movement of your supply chain around the world.”
The trick is balancing these investments with necessary ongoing support:
- If you can’t meet the demand of new feature requests or bug fixes, identify whether this is a problem with your team or the software itself.
- If this balance is hard to maintain, is your team well-rounded enough to do what they need to do?
How We Can Help
At Unstoppable Software, we create long-term relationships with companies by offering a mix of services including custom software development, monthly maintenance contracts, and consulting services. Our goal is to support your teams by filling in the gaps of your in-house expertise and possible workloads. If a job is too complicated to develop in-house, we can help. If you’re looking to free up your developers’ time, we can help with mundane maintenance tasks, as well. Learn more about our three core services: