Maybe your company is different, but most companies I deal with don't start getting serious about creating their IT budgets for next year until after Labor Day. While the 2009 budgets were thrown out the window by many IT execs as the economy spiraled downward, 2010 looks more promising. So if you are one of those executives looking for a return to stability and maybe even some cautious growth, what are 10 IT projects that can help you achieve those goals? These are growth projects and not constant standbys of security, storage and hardware maintenance and upgrades. The old standbys have to be fed, but they won't fuel a growth rebound.
1. Mobility: .It's time to think about application development with the mobile device as the primary client. Your top executives and your sales force are using their mobiles as their primary way of staying in touch with the company. Your customers are more likely to respond to offers made via mobile messages. Rather than thinking about how to mobilize older enterprise applications, think about mobility as the start of the project.
2. Social networks.: This is one you are going to hear a lot about. What you are not going to hear a lot about is how to build the reporting tools required for a successful social network program. Rather than send everyone off Twittering and running Facebook pages, start with what you are trying to accomplish first.
3. Enlarge your company's product development team: Remember motto, "The customer is always right"? Technology firms such as Dell have had success at bringing their customer base into the product development process. Do you make it easy for customers to recommend new products and improvements to existing products and services? You should.
4. Get with the cloud and virtualization:One of the problems with the ways the technology firms have marketed cloud computing and virtualization is the pitch that it is mostly about cutting costs. However, cloud computing also offers a way for companies to quickly provision technology infrastructure for startups within their own company.
5. Think outside your technology box: Yes, it is easier to manage your technology resources when everyone uses the same laptop, the same operating system, the same database, etc. But if your company is going to take advantage of new business intelligence tools hosted in the cloud or new applications from companies such as Salesforce.com or new e-commerce tools from companies like Amazon, you have to start small. You have to find and fund the technology pioneers in your company or you are going to be stuck in the same tech rut as last year.
6. Be a leader: How are you developing the new tech talent in your company? While your travel budget may have been clobbered by the economic recession, you have many opportunities in virtual trade shows, e-seminars and smaller local events. Do you track the e-seminars your employees attend? Do you have a way to evaluate which e-sems and virtual trade shows offer the most value? Do you recognize employees who have gone out of their way to learn a new technology and bring it to your company's talent pool? You should.
7. Think outside your company's business box: How much time do you spend looking at how the competitors to your company are using technology? What is their Web interface? How easy or difficult is it to order a product from the competitor? Sign up for their newsletters, mobile alerts and e-seminars where they may be a presenter. Now, take a few moments to step away from your industry and see how technology is being used by startups. Are they making use of geolocation services? What are their offerings like on mobile devices such as the iPhone App Store? This is not just Web surfing—this is called competitive analysis, and if you are structured about it, you can find some good ideas for your company.
8. Understand the new online contractor services:Web firms like ELance are changing the way contractors are hired. If there is an upside to a strained economy, it is there are lots of good contractors suddenly available. You really need to understand how these new Web-based contractor services work if you are going to figure out how to get the programming and application development resources for your new projects.
9. Rethink your company's IT infrastructure: I know this article is about 10 projects for new services, but if you are like most companies, the majority of your IT budget still goes into keeping the lights on and the servers running. Reducing those costs is where you free up new development dollars. The new part is you have a wider range of hosted services to look at than even a year earlier.
10. Be structured about looking at the new offerings from old vendors. Soon you will be asked about Windows 7 and new hosted application offerings from Oracle, new video services from Cisco and new business applications from Google. The big vendors have not been sleeping, but have been waiting for some economic sunlight before making their product marketing pushes. How many of these big platform switches can you make in a year? How rigid is the ROI that you can attach to these offerings? The execs from these companies are playing golf with your boss, and you need to have a reason why or why not you are ready to take on big projects that will consume most of your new project dollars and people resources.