The mixture of strategy and tactics that the best retailers are employing to beat the recession is something that IT departments can learn from, and should champion through their businesses.

The mixture of strategy and tactics that the best retailers are employing to beat the recession is something that IT departments can learn from, and should champion through their businesses.

The feature I wrote on strategy and tactics in last Friday’s issue of Retail Week was all about how retailers may damage their strategy with too much, or poorly conceived, tactical behaviour.

Analysis of the actions that had successfully steered companies through the last recession makes for interesting reading, not least because most of it is directly applicable to IT departments.

Diamond Consultants’ advice is to target cost-cutting. This might seem like common sense, but with the finance director breathing down your neck it can be tempting to take the chop across the board and then find you are light on essential resources and unable to meet users’ needs at a time when they will require you to help them respond to changing market conditions more quickly than ever before.

Investment must be more carefully targeted during a recession. If you don’t, then you can end up underfunding the small number of projects that could produce the most benefit. And Diamond is certain that the firms that performed well through the last recession continued to invest in research and development, using their competitors’ budget constraints as an opportunity to get ahead.

One of the other suggestions relates to driving up variable costs and reducing total costs through close partnerships – something that many IT departments are already good at. IT suppliers will tell you that they want to be your partner; now is the time to get them to prove it.

Some of the other measures suggested are in areas where the IT department can act in partnership with the rest of the business. For instance, knowing your most profitable customer segments or optimising your marketing mix both require customer insight and reporting.

With the timelines of the technical projects and change management that IT departments undertake, the ability to marry long-term and short-term thinking should be a strength their whole businesses can exploit.