Transforming in a Downturn: What to Keep, What to Cut

“When we're in a downturn, there's the initial reaction is to pull back… I think it's a really important opportunity to innovate”.


The Technology industry is facing the challenge of transforming business during a downturn raising challenging questions about what is essential to keep, and what can affordably be cut. In this roundtable debate, technology leaders discuss how to do more with less, the opportunities of automation tools and the importance of listening to people to promote innovation.


Technology leader insights from

With Keme Nzerem moderating this roundtable debate, the speakers include:

Watch highlights: Transforming in a downturn


This roundtable debate was recorded at The Studio.

Ready to discover more? If you liked these highlights, click the button below to watch the full roundtable debate.


How to do more with less

Keme Nzreme opened the debate by asking the technology leaders how you can do more with less, referring to the current situation of many businesses. 


IPG Mediabrands’ CIO, Laura Kendrick, advocated for the removal of “joyless working” through a move towards automation. With AI, Laura believes that while there are threats, there are “also masses of opportunity.” Automation services, such as ChatGPT, have the potential to relieve workers from producing unenjoyable churn. For Laura, a perhaps obvious but critical element of doing more with less is “putting the right people in the right jobs.”


The key to doing more with less in technology organisation, for Manpower Group’s Europe CIO Ankur Anand, is through being agile and nimble. Ankur proceeded that we should aim to be right up front, demanding better services from service providers and “be prudent in terms of how we are spending… most importantly, focusing on building a very strong relationship with the business.” When asked by Nzerem about how he saw AI being useful in extracting value and driving efficiencies, Ankur responded that automation can free up people’s capacity to build relationships with clients, contributing to the focus on a very strong business relationship that he emphasised the importance of. 


Global GLP CIO Miao Song reiterated the opportunity AI offers to businesses transforming in a downturn. Miao reveals that traditionally “it takes two days, for some companies weeks, to write a summary”. Whereas, using automation technology can take a matter of seconds. As part of becoming agile as a business, Miao stressed the importance of making sure that with every technology project “you actually focus on delivering value to the business ” Where there is no identifiable value added, she advises against undertaking the project. 


It’s all about people 

Leadership is listening, according to Box’s CIO Ravi Malick. Ravi expanded upon this by making the point that “business leaders with a technology focus sometimes get lost in the technology, and forget about the people aspect.” When facing a downturn, Ravi believes that this is a “really important opportunity to innovate”; a shift in focus from technology to people being fundamental to this innovation opportunity. 


When in a downturn, you need to shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivational factors according to Rajesh Jethwa, Digiterre’s CIO. In doing so, you create a “psychological safety that people can have autonomy, mastery and purpose”, says Rajesh. As part of this shift in strategy to accommodate transformation in a downturn, management should be integrated- happening every single quarter, as opposed to “off site that happens once a year in a nice hotel.” 


In relation to people, Laura added that an essential leadership quality is identifying when someone is not energised nor motivated. In such an instance, Laura believes that “they’re probably not focusing on the right thing.” This demonstrates the importance of communication in promoting efficiency allowing leaders to do more with less. 


In order to facilitate a move towards the successful implementation of automation tools, the benefits of which have been discussed by the panel throughout, Laura drew attention to the importance of creating a sense of involvement. When AI is “happening over there… it can be quite scary.” Essentially, investing time into people enables the integration of new technology more efficiently- an essential part of being agile amidst an industry downturn. 

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