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Batten down the hatches and hit the gas: 8 steps to recession-proof your IT budget

There’s no way to sugar coat it: the economy is heading into turbulent waters. As is often the case during a downturn, the impact on businesses will be profound, with tighter budgets, tougher-to-justify business cases, and a general desire to slow down and hold on tight. Information technology isn’t immune, and conventional wisdom might suggest tech leaders should also be battening down the hatches. But we humbly suggest conventional wisdom needs a dose of modernization; now is the time for IT to hit the gas on investing.


It’s easy to understand why the broader economy is pulling back after over a decade of historic expansion. Early pandemic spending sprees are giving way to late-pandemic pullbacks. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is sending shockwaves around the globe. Between chaotic energy markets, broken supply chains, waves of layoffs, rampant inflation, and spiking interest rates, there’s no shortage of frightening economic headlines.

Historically, IT has followed the rest of the business herd as economic indicators have started to trend downward. As everyone else’s budget got cut, IT similarly stood by and watched as its bottom line was pulled back in the name of corporate efficiency and survival.

But IT has assumed a far more profound role in organizational success since the last global recession 15 years ago, and this new reality calls for a very different approach to spending.

The good news: Gartner predicts global IT spending will increase 5.5% in 2023. The bad news: that’s well below International Monetary Fund figures that pegged inflation at 8.8% in 2022 and 6.6% in 2023. That means IT must fight even harder for its business critical slice of the budget pie.


Times have most certainly changed. IT is no longer a passive contributor to organizational success. Technology is no longer seen as a straight-up cost, and the CIO is no longer a junior member of the C-suite who must beg others for resources.

Today, technology is a strategic driver of organizational performance, CIOs own their own budgets, and IT is now a central player in ensuring the organization remains competitive. We wrote about the change recently – Today’s CIO role is evolving more rapidly than ever. Here’s what’s driving it. – and we believe IT has never been as central to overall organizational performance and strategy as it is now.

All of this is especially true as the economy hits the brakes. And it presents a uniquely historic opportunity for IT professionals to lead the charge as organizations adjust themselves to the landscape.


As CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, and other technology leaders adapt themselves to this new reality, they’d do well to focus on the following intelligent fixes to best prepare the IT budget for the challenges ahead:

1 – Bump up security spending

While a Fortinet study suggests 71% of CIOs view their security as good or excellent, a full 43% admit they are either “somewhat” or “very” unprepared for what comes next. Given the catastrophic business impact and spiralling costs of even a minor security breach on an organization’s operations and brand, it’s becoming increasingly clear that cutting the cybersecurity budget is tantamount to a corporate death wish.

Now is the time to funnel more money into cybersecurity, and to use the current uncertainty to accelerate investments in automation, self-service solutions such as portals, and employee training to reduce security friction points and ensure maximum compliance.

2 – Simplify the toolset

Technology assets tend to multiply over time, with organizations taking on new hardware, platforms, subscriptions, development tools, and other resources. While having the right systems on-hand to power growth is crucial, it’s just as true that having too many tools in the toolkit leads to higher acquisition and maintenance costs, greater diversion of resources to manage them all, and reduced agility.

Consider conducting a comprehensive asset inventory and assessment process to identify what you’re currently using. Assess all resources to ensure they continue to drive business value. Decommission those that don’t and integrate or consolidate disparate systems to streamline management.

3 – Streamline the software estate

Software licensing represents one of the most significant opportunities for quick-win improvements to the budget, as many organizations often buy more than they need, then fail to adjust their ongoing spending to better align with requirements.

Monitor usage – particularly among subscription-based offerings – to identify what is and is not being used, and areas where the organization is over-licensed for current and projected business requirements.

Don’t be afraid to use the resulting savings to invest in critical systems that can drive agility and competitiveness. Or improve your cybersecurity resilience.

4 – Revisit contracts

There’s a lot of opportunity hiding in the fine print of most IT contracts. Review them to identify areas for optimization and negotiate with vendors for improved terms. There’s no rule preventing customers from renegotiating contract terms mid-stream – in fact, it’s considered best practice to routinely revisit and tweak terms to benefit the organization.

5 – Stretch out hardware timelines

Ditch the set-in-stone schedules that dictate when employees receive new laptops, phones, and related hardware. Conduct cost-benefit analyses to assess optimal lifespans for given categories of hardware, then track maintenance costs to identify how they evolve over time, and where optimal points in time for retirement and replacement.

Use monitoring software to determine how certain classes of equipment are being used and continue to invest only in resources that drive ongoing business value.

6 – Link technology investments to ongoing revenue

All organizations are now technology organizations – and we’re long past the point where IT is considered a cost center. Similarly, all technology investments are now directly linkable to specific business outcomes, and it is incumbent on IT to paint this picture for the rest of the organization.

Track metrics for all technology initiatives that relate investments to tangible business benefits. Use this direct relationship to cultivate a culture where leaders across the organization understand the value and ROI of tech-related spending.

7 – Accelerate spending on training

Human factors rarely get the attention they deserve. They should. Well-trained staff and contractors are better equipped to squeeze more business value out of the technology they use. They are also better able to recognize – and avoid – attempts by malevolent actors to compromise organizational security.

There’s a competitive benefit to a training-first culture, as well: better-skilled resources spend less time trying to get their technology to work and more time working with customers, vendors, and other stakeholders to creatively drive the business.

8 – Double down on hybrid workstyles

Employees across all industries have spoken even as the pandemic slowly recedes, they wish to retain the option to work both remotely as well as in the traditional office. A truly hybrid work environment helps recruitment and retention efforts and allows access to a broader talent pool that can, in turn, benefit the performance of technology projects and the organization at-large.

A hybrid-friendly HR landscape similarly reduces pressure on existing office facilities and allows organizations to support a larger workforce with a smaller real estate footprint. Those savings can be easily reinvested in innovative technologies that drive organizational agility.


Years of strong economic growth have made it easy for IT shops to ignore the need to optimize their budgets. As the external landscape begins to contract, however, IT needs to tighten its pencils and sharpen its focus on what it spends, and why.

Fortunately, IT has never been more critical to top- and bottom-line performance. Now more than ever, technology drives competitiveness, and in the process has been given a generational opportunity to reshape the organizational roadmap.

It’s no longer about spending less: it’s about streamlining spending in less value-added regimes and freeing up resources for investment in next-generation technologies. Give us a call if you’d like to discuss how technology can reshape your own recessionary roadmap.