Yes, times are tough, and the prospects look increasingly disturbing.
But now is not the time to panic and throw away all of the experience and lessons you have learned as a CIO over the years.
"Sure this is a big one, but it is exactly that: a bigger version of problems we have all managed through previously," says Tony Newman, general manager information systems at Mitsubishi Motors
"Revisit your own experiences and identify the lessons, positive and negative. Identify waste and eliminate it, be it in IT projects for techos that add very little value to customers, longstanding maintenance contracts that no longer reflect the criticality of the equipment, or software upgrades that may be able to be postponed without serious adverse consequences.”
And consider these five other things you can do to help keep your company afloat and your career prospects intact.
1. Undertake Emergency Cost Optimisation
You've done your best to run lean and mean, but when financing gets tight, and cost reduction becomes a priority, you really need to squeeze the best possible pricing and service arrangements possible out of your vendors. Sounds easy, notes Gartner distinguished analyst John P Roberts, but it can in fact be incredibly challenging.
"CIOs are up against professional negotiators who have heard all the stories before, so the first principle is to try and make sure that you really do understand the market," Roberts says. "Really move outside your own domain to understand what sort of deals other people are getting."
Review terms and conditions, and consider what levels of service you really need as well as alternative modes of supply. Leasing expensive equipment may cost as much as buying in the long term, but it can also have a significant positive effect on cash flow.
And develop the habit of considering open source solutions first before evaluating costly proprietary ones. Every $50,000 a CIO saves in deploying an open source Content Management System/Wiki is money he or she can divert to ongoing op-ex budgets, points out Cybersource CEO Con Zymaris.
"Every licence fee and CAL you can save by deploying Linux servers and desktops is money that you can put into buying urgent hardware acquisitions."
Look to alternative sources of products and services. Be willing to consider solutions otherwise thought risky due to lower cost or unusual procurement process.
Establish a small, fleet-footed team within the IT group whose job it is to identify left-of-centre solutions to the business's IT needs. This group can research and deploy 'freely acquirable' solutions, test them for fitness-for-purpose, and perform the necessary due-diligence and risk assessment for such technologies prior to making recommendations for go/no-go to the CIO.
You might also look to lower-cost, even consumer-grade hardware and appliances in non mission-critical areas of your network, Zymaris suggests. These may be 'good enough' for your business needs, and are often one tenth of the cost of enterprise equivalents.
For example, rather than buying full-featured desktops and laptops consider moving to cheap netbooks, with perhaps a spare screen, keyboard and mouse for those who really need larger screen real estate and bigger keyboards. When netbooks can be had for under $500, spending $1500-$2000 per 'computing seat' is rarely justifiable.