"Putting off the next version is fine, so long as you don't wind up spending IT resources and money customizing it just to keep it up and running," Delotte's Blatman says.
5. Bring in the CFO
Asking the chief of finance to help prioritize can offer a window into the business priorities, so IT can better understand the larger view of projects and adjust its own efforts accordingly. "The CFO can say, 'It makes sense to cut over there,' because another department is undergoing an initiative that aligns with that," says Amy Wohl, president of Wohl Associates.
What's more, when the CFO goes around to a company's business units looking for places to cut, an opportunity arises to prove what IT executives already know: IT is uniquely positioned because an incremental investment can result in more than commensurate return, according to Deloitte's Blatman.
A decision Panera made recently exemplifies how investing smartly can actually be the more frugal avenue. "We decided we could either build analytics into our portal or look at the available tools," Rhoades says. "We saved money directly by buying the analytics." Otherwise, it would have cost more and taken longer to create that functionality in-house, and the goal was to improve communications with store managers as soon as possible, so they could spend less time on their PC and more in the front of the house.
Different enterprises have varying reasons to include the CFO in cost-savings plans, but they all share one bond. "IT possesses the kind of leverage you can't find anywhere else in the organization," Blatman says. "Things will rebound eventually and get back on track. IT doesn't want to be behind then, so folks still need to be planning long-term."