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Any leader who’s led through market downturns knows the key to coming out stronger is doing more with less.

There are no easy answers to the confusing, uncertain market conditions we find ourselves in. Rising costs, wages, supply chain disruptions, “the first talent-constrained recession,” and extreme market volatility are baffling decision makers as much as the talking heads.

The key question is how to cut costs while on offense.

Though “trimming the fat” can mean many things, when performed thoughtfully, controlling costs is always a healthy exercise. The issue becomes when defensive, short-term thinking leads to unsustainable cuts that actually do more harm in the long term and don’t allow for “going on offense.” “Trimming your way out” isn’t likely to happen, but using your constraints to rethink your process and offerings to focus on short and medium term ROI definitely will.

As Peter Drucker said:

…the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.

Recessions have generally softened the employment market, but with a unique talent-constrained recession, Forrester recommends that “IT leaders stay steady in their approach to employment numbers” rather than the conventional wisdom of reducing headcount. With the right team empowered with the right tools and processes, you’ll be able to innovate and focus urgently on finding immediate ROI opportunities to improve operational effectiveness, to deliver more efficiently and even differentiate from the competition.

As founder of a Data services and solutions company, I’ve seen firsthand how this approach has brought both mid-sized and some of the largest companies weather tough times, and how it’s seen our own organization make the Inc5000 fastest growing list. In an industry of shockingly low ROI when it comes to true cloud and data transformation, measurable results and immediate ROI in our engagements has always been a value I’ve held deeply. The pandemic has been a once-a-century game changer with many examples of innovate-or-die scenarios. It demonstrated how quickly business can transform, assessing, iterating and implementing solutions in impossible timelines. This highly volatile time is testing those in leadership yet again.

With the right tools or partner, your secret weapon is on staff.

To keep up with the pace of technology advancement and empower current employees, partnering with the right solutions provider may be far more sustainable than getting into the war for talent. That’s not only because it takes more resources to build an analytics capability than to operate that capability, but also because a deeply experienced, tech-agnostic team may be able to drive huge efficiencies in both your tech stack and your processes. Your team members already know your business processes and may have not only the baseline skill sets, but more importantly, the interest to grow into certain high-demand roles. Freeing up a company’s data scientists to focus on the toughest challenges and a better all-round use of existing resources means immediate ROI.

An experienced solutions provider with a flexible delivery model is differentiated by identifying both the solution and also the most efficient delivery, from an end-to-end solution to advisory or implementation and support. Expertise across multiple technologies and deep understanding of digital transformation at an organizational level also lead to a “solutions center” approach where adoption is much likelier when ownership quickly scales across teams.

I’ve seen firsthand how “small” solutions that only take days to implement (like pre-built cloud monitoring dashboards or narrow data migration automation templates) start saving hundreds of thousands of dollars the day they’re implemented. Or rearchitecting bloated tech stacks that may not seem as grandiose but magically get far more accomplished at a fraction of the cost. The satisfaction I’ve had over the years from being part of the transformation journey of world leading brands has been due to the dual focus on the optimum solution with measurable ROI as well as the delivery, whether that meant a narrow automation solution or multiple on-site consultants for a year.

So it’s time to start shooting for more immediate ROI on innovation portfolios to come out on top, by empowering teams with specialized platforms and systems for them to scale across the organization—and let’s not waste yet another crisis.

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