Cut your way to success? Not likely.

I recently spoke to a colleague that found it somewhat astounding that several companies were talking about increasing spending on innovation-related projects. Conventional wisdom says it’s time to cut your costs, fire your staff, then head for the fallout shelter and hope there is a world left to return to in a year or two. Despite common “wisdom,” you don’t become the Next Big Thing by selling the boardroom table, eating Ramen noodles and hiding under a rock until times improve.

IT is no different from any other business function in that it should have an investment portfolio that includes rudimentary elements (keeping the network up and the servers serving), some high-risk R&D elements and everything in between. When the economy suffers you might change the mix, but you don’t completely axe a particular category. Show me a company that stopped innovating and rested on your laurels, and I’ll show you the next candidate for a congressional bailout.

Many IT shops miss their biggest asset: their universal presence and cross-functional knowledge. There are boatloads of low-cost, high return projects that executives can attack by exploiting this knowledge that as a side benefit, make IT look like a group that brings value to the table, not a cost to be mitigated. Certainly not a bad way to be perceived in a recession. I have a bit more about this in a column here.

Think of all the process improvement opportunities you’ve seen during say, and ERP implementation that you just didn’t have time to implement. Or think of that database you created for marketing would really benefit production or perhaps a function as diverse as AR. The possibilities are almost limitless and require less funding that a huge multi-year implementation.

Best of luck staying innovative, and pass the Ramen noodles!

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