Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summertime Blues

ma • laise

noun - a vague or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort

Almost three weeks into summer, my project list is long and my pile of paperwork is high. Yet here I sit on a Saturday afternoon trying to shake off whatever's got me glued to my chair. Not the most promising start to yet another IT blog; channeling Eddie Cochran only worked for The Who and the Stray Cats.

So what am I going to write about? Topics of interest to the typical small-to-medium-enterprise IT manager. But with a different perspective: where is your business going, and are you helping it get there? That's a question that cuts both ways, doesn't it?

Not many SMEs have managed growth in the last three years. We've not been immune; 80% staff cuts across the board, salary freezes and reductions. And at the bottom of it, one lone IT staffer - me. I thought I was too old to crawl around under desks plugging and uplugging cables. But I'll do what I need to for a paycheck.

Like many businesses, our organization had been on track to double our revenue in 2008. We were running out of space for new employees and square footage for new production lines. And we had IT infrastructure and staffers to match. You know what was most ironic about our forced downsizing? I'd been encouraged to focus less on technical knowledge so I could remain free to think strategically. When the dust settled I had more than a few systems that I struggled to admin.

A few months of late-night cramming convinced me of one thing: Simple is better. What's the best way to support your business processes, achieve necessary integration across all your systems and still drive down costs? Can you bring new and relevant features to your users for less money and with less complexity? Those questions became the focus of my attention.

Here we are in 2011. We've managed to hang on, sometimes only by our fingernails. There are times it's been ugly, bloody and depressing. Yet we've managed to grab marketshare from competitors and have aggressively developed new markets and customers. IT has become simpler and easier to maintain, but there are still a few legacy systems that need to go away. Oh, and I finally have one very capable staffer - yay!

I'll tell you how we got here in a few days, so stay tuned ...