What to Do

Your budget is about to be cut. Your IT shop faces a hiring freeze or layoffs . You can see a pep talk about "doing more with less" heading your way like an 18-wheeler barreling down a one-lane road. And you have no idea when things will start to get better. Does that about cover your situation?

Stop. Catch your breath. And get ready for the deluge.

You already know your IT shop needs to become more visible to the rest of the business. You know you'll have to work faster and be a closer and more valued partner than ever to your users.

What else should be on your to-do list -- and the to-do lists of each person in your IT shop?

Glad you asked.

Dive into a new technology.Cloud computing is hot this week. So is virtualization . Linux, agile programming , encryption -- face it, there are lots of technologies you don't know. Choose one and jump in. It doesn't have to be something job-related, just something to stretch your brain. Remind yourself of why you got into this game in the first place. It may be a while before you have time for much variety again.

Find a corner you can cut. Look for efficiencies. Rethink your procedures. Streamline your habits. Remember, you're about to have less time to do more work. Either you find ways to work faster, or your days will get longer.

Choose an escape valve. You know you'll need one or your head will explode sometime before June. Maybe it's a game, a blog, a hobby, a meditation position. Whatever it is, have it ready so that when you just can't take it anymore, you'll be able to spend a few minutes escaping -- and then go back to taking it.

Identify a need. What's not being done that would help users or IT? What's the cheapest way to make that happen? Is there any way to measure the benefit? And how many people will want to, um, help take credit?

Spot a way to save money. It doesn't have to be big or ongoing, though that's a nice plus. But anything that will consume less manpower, attention, electricity, cooling or maintenance without reducing what IT delivers to users -- that's likely to be well received.

Bury a hatchet. Maybe it's a user you can't stand. Or a peer who nurses an old grudge. Now's the time to clear the decks with an enemy. You don't want the distraction of a needle match when the going gets tough. And if you can't actually resolve the problem, maybe you can cut a deal: For six months, you'll both pretend it's in the past. You can always go back to hating each other when happy days are back again.

Inventory your skills. If your current job suddenly becomes obsolete in an IT shop reorganization, you'll want to know in advance what you're good at. Don't just refresh your résum&eacute -- think about all of the things you can do. That's your guide to what you may be doing next.

Cross a discipline. A smaller staff means each staffer may have to do more things. If you're working in a silo, it's about to be demolished. Look around. What's the logical line for you to cross? And when the time comes, how will you cross it?

Learn something new about your business. Not IT -- the business your company is in. The more you know about how its products and services are conceived, engineered, produced, marketed, sold, accounted for and regulated, the more you can contribute to making the business work better with technology.

Stop to smell some roses. It really is going to get ugly. You'll have less time for the people, places and things you love. Don't wait. Enjoy them today.

Computerworld 's senior news columnist. Contact him atfrank_hayes@computerworld.com .

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

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