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2009: The Year of the Wait

Jenn SteeleI’m declaring 2009 to be “The Year of the Wait”.  Oh, sure, 2009 might not be over yet, but most of us are in the throes of 2010 budget season, so I’m willing to call it.  Although my firm has been able to do some major projects, almost every colleague I talk to says that they’re waiting for one thing or another (Office 2007 being the primary project that was planned for 2009 and has been pushed off).  Even vendors who cold-call me ask, “Are you going to be purchasing <insert product/service> or are you waiting?” 
Overall, 2009 has sounded like a Beckett play:

Network Manager:
Let's go.

IT Director:
We can't.

Network Manager:
Why not?

IT Director:
We're waiting for 2010.

But why are we waiting? What are we waiting for? What will the consequences be? Well, glad you asked…

Why are we waiting?

Right now you’re thinking, “How dense can she be? It’s the economy, stupid!”  If you’re tempted to close your browser window right now, I’m going to beg for a little patience.  I argue that the reason we’re waiting is simple: fear.

Okay, not entirely.  Some firms and companies are actually too cash-poor to complete any projects.  For many firms, however, the fear has really gotten to them.  I recently spoke to one colleague who is completely out of disk space, but cannot even spend a minimal amount of money for a NAS device just to alleviate the pain.  The fear of the economy has trumped the more urgent fear of systems crashing, not keeping up with client technology, or of getting “behind”.

Ironically, the same “powers that be” who are denying my colleagues the ability to do vital projects will get very upset if clients perceive them to be behind in technology, but that’s an issue for another day.

What are we waiting for?

I know, you’re thinking “It’s the economy, stupid!” again.  Bear with me for a moment longer.  Most firms and companies are waiting for some sign that they can let go of the fear and spend money again.  For some firms, that might have to do with cash flow.  For others, the stock market or the unemployment index.  Whether firms are waiting for lines of credit or peace of mind, consensus says that should happen sometime in 2010. 

Does that mean that we’re simply waiting for the calendar to flip over? Perhaps.  Perhaps once the calendar flips and many firms (hopefully) pay out profits to the partnership, they’ll be more likely to spend money on IT projects again.  Perhaps not.  Either way, we’re all waiting for the traffic light to move to green, and 2010 is when we expect it to do so.

What will the consequences be?

Pardon me, I have to go dig up my crystal ball… Ah, there it is—in the budget drawer, where I left it.

Obviously, we don’t yet know what all of the consequences will be.  But here are some of my ideas:

  • Legal may ramp up slower than other businesses.  As such, 2010 may not be the project-filled year that many of us anticipate.
  • There will be more version skipping.  For example, more law firms will skip over Office 2007 in favor of Office 2010 (or Exchange 2007 in favor of Exchange 2010).  
  • Legal could bleed talent.  Our best minds, tired of waiting and being over-extended due to short staffing, could jump to other industries that have ramped up more quickly.  There is already evidence of an uptick in hiring in the general economy.
  • Client perception.  Clients may perceive us to be slower at adopting technology, since we have put everything on hold for a year.  Luckily, many of our clients have been forced to do the same!


I’m sure there are many other consequences, but these are the ones I expect to see.  More than anything, I hope that our fears have been calmed enough to successfully make the transition from 2009, the “Year of the Wait” to 2010, the “Year of the Do”.

 

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