Economic crisis means double duty for IT pros

Economic crisis means double duty for IT pros

IT professionals with frozen budgets and strapped staff take on dual roles to weather economic storm

Get used to pitching in

James Kritcher says his organization in the past 12 months has retracted requisitions for additional personnel as a result of the business climate. As vice president of IT at White Electronic Designs, Kritcher personally pitched in to head up the company's enterprise risk management (ERM) program.

"Certainly one factor in my assumption of these tasks was a hesitancy to incur the costs of hiring a new person to perform them," he explains. "I had the knowledge and was willing to take them on because it will give me additional credibility with my IT peers as well as the company's board."

One caution, however, is to not take on too much. Kritcher says he tries to approach additional work with realistic expectations and choose duties that seem a natural add-on to his primary responsibilities. For instance, his ownership of the company's ERM program evolved from his work in IT disaster recovery planning.

"You have to ensure your IT responsibilities don't suffer," he says. "Because as much as doing more work can help your credibility, if you don't perform, your reputation can take a hit -- even if you had the best intentions."

At Metrocorp Publications, IT has been asked for quite some time to put off non-essential projects such as desktop operating system upgrades.

"For the past six months, we have been asked to hold off on all investments that are non-essential to provide a cushion for the economic downturn our management expected would come," says Chris Majauckas, computer technology manager for the company.

Since reducing an IT staff of two employees isn't feasible, Majauckas works to find ways around spending money -- even taking on mechanical and electrical assignments such as modifying cubicle design and rewiring the area for staff.

"Before I look to an outside vendor, I assess if I can perform the job and save the company a few thousand dollars," he explains. "It makes me more valuable to the company and hopefully if it comes to cutting staff, management will think twice about reducing my position to bring in a contractor."

If economic turmoil doesn't always force IT to cut budgets and slash staff, it certainly reminds them to eliminate redundancy in duties. Bruce Meyer, director of network services at ProMedica Healthcare, says his organization is currently consolidating functions performed on the voice and data side under his purview going forward. To date, the voice and data network engineers operated independently of each other, but as ProMedica rolls out voice over IP, the opportunity to streamline operations presented itself.

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