Increase productivity or reduce costs- which does IT prefer?

Much of our work involves assisting technology clients who sell to IT buyers. I started consulting in 2009, right in the thick of the economic downturn. It felt like for years, every marketing message I worked on involved reducing costs and doing more with less: consolidate data centers, virtualize servers, automate processes, etc. While the products across clients vary greatly, the priorities of senior IT decision makers, specifically to reduce costs, seemed quite consistent. Or at least I thought they were.

If there is any doubt Silicon Valley has fully recovered from the downturn of ‘09, it was confirmed for me after I listened in on customer feedback (always an invaluable experience) at two different clients earlier this spring. At one client’s recent customer advisory board meeting, senior IT executives from a variety of industries — financial services, high tech, healthcare and education — were asked to rank order the following key benefit messages in terms of which one would resonate most:

· Reduce risk

· Improve employee productivity

· Lower support costs

· Increase efficiency

· Deliver the best user experience

Universally these IT executives said their number one priority is to provide a good user experience — even if it costs more to implement. Improving employee productivity, which has always felt like a ‘soft’ benefit statement, came in second most important to these buyers.

The objective of IT, they said, is to solve business problems and make the business more productive. If they can achieve this, IT plays a more strategic role instead of simply being a cost center. If they don’t achieve this, they will hear about it as users complain about the applications or technologies that are preventing them from getting their jobs done. Satisfying user demands is now top priority.

Similarly, another client of ours told me they are not hearing from IT customers about reducing costs anymore. Managing costs and maximizing ROI on investments still matter, but IT departments are no longer driven by a need to reduce their budgets. They are being asked to empower employees to be as productive as possible.

What are you hearing from your IT customers? Does user experience rule or are budgets still tight? Let us know your thoughts.