CIOs discuss economic challenges

LAWRENCEVILLE - Four information technology executives who spoke Tuesday at the Gwinnett Technology Forum's annual CIO Roundtable agreed on this: Adversity breeds innovation.

With fewer resources available in the current economic climate, the heads of companies and organizations are giving their information technology departments more flexibility to pursue cost-saving projects, the panelists said.

Dan Homrich, chief information officer of Stratix Corp., said the Norcross-based company is increasing spending in information technology.

"We see it as a key way for us to capitalize in the down market," Homrich said.

But other panelists said they've been tasked with spending less money.

"Our focus has been on raising the effectiveness of the organization. We're doing more with the same amount of resources," said Greg Morrison, corporate chief information officer for Cox Enterprises. "This is an important time to ensure we're investing in the resources of the organization. Most of our projects have focused on taking the cost out."

Lonnie Harvel, Georgia Gwinnett College's vice president for educational technology and chief information officer, said the nearly 3-year-old college has saved money by not creating certain types of jobs. Last year, the college decided against creating and filling 17 positions; this year, the institution will do the same for 21 positions.

"The savings will go back into our core business, which is education," Harvel said. "We'll put that money back into the classroom."

Jason Molfetas, chief information officer of Recall Corp., said the culture of information technology is changing. In the past, IT professionals have enjoyed working on projects that will be completed in three years.

"Now we have to make sure we have milestones or deliverables within six, eight or 12 months," he said. "Business is moving very rapidly."

Before implementing new technology or strategies, Harvel warned, companies must make sure they've done a real cost analysis to determine if they will really save money. It's important for companies to figure out the hidden costs and identify ways in which the project may add to spending, he said.

Despite the challenges, the panelists said technology can help companies survive this recession.

"We'll continue to operate ... as best we can in this very difficult economy," Morrison said, "expecting there is a light at the end of the tunnel - and it's not a train."