The Worst Is Behind Us


By Eileen Feretic

When I spoke with Peter Whatnell a few days ago, I was hoping for some good news about the economy in general and information technology in particular. What I got was a good news/bad news scenario.

As Sunoco's CIO and the president of the Society for Information Management (SIM), Peter is closely attuned to where the industry is headed. His response to my question about the economy? "Well," he said, "at least it's stopped getting worse."

In his dual roles, Peter is in constant contact with other IT executives, most of whom are taking a wait-and-see approach to IT spending. "No one feels comfortable predicting when things will get better," he told me.

The good news is that we seem to be at the end of cutting. The bad news is that most companies are not yet ready to start spending. Peter feels that current levels of technology spending will continue at least through the end of this year.

At Sunoco, Peter strives to keep costs down where he can so that he can use these savings to fund critical projects. "It's like creating your own investment fund," he said.

That's a clever idea. It not only enables a company to invest in IT projects that can support business objectives and create revenue-generating opportunities, but it also gives the IT team a chance to work on something new and creative, instead of just maintaining the status quo.

Peter pointed out how important it is to re-energize IT teams that have become risk-adverse as a result of the troubled economy and ongoing layoffs. "It's hard to be innovative without taking some risks," he said. "When there are no big-growth projects, we need IT to be creative in smaller areas. We've got to get IT professionals to believe in themselves again."

Hopefully, a lot of other executives share Peter's progressive viewpoints. We all need to start believing again--in ourselves and in the future.