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Setting your IT budget

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Budgets can make or break a company – and the IT budget is an integral part of the success of businesses. It is fair to say that the IT budget is a top priority in defining the company’s success in the following year but, finding an IT manager who is skilled in technology and also very conversant with figures and budgets, is hard. In reverse, IT considerations are also hard to explain to business users, who usually hold the purse strings. Here are some considerations that should provide guidance on this seemingly difficult task.

Firstly, do you actually have an IT company strategy, which defines the core principles on the year ahead? Do you have a verified IT asset report providing not only the number and value of your hardware and software assets, but also their condition? What is the company strategy in the growing areas of mobile workers, cloud services and security and disaster recovery?

These last two are frequently the demise of most well thought out budgets, and often result in massive overspends when systems fail or get attacked. Knowing what you have and understanding your company’s terms of reference with regard to IT will enable you to plan ahead successfully.

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Try to involve key people in your budget exercise from the very beginning. Bring in human resources, accountancy and production – capitalise on their resources, and understand their needs with regard to their departmental performance expectations. Treat your budget as a work in progress and carry out regular reviews. The changing face of technology, together with the business environment will guarantee that you will be required to review certain areas. Flexibility is key here.

Once you have the process worked out, some key subject areas to consider – in no particular order – include the following.

Upgrades on hardware and software are a constant consideration. Do not play the high risk game of running outdated or pirated software – which will inevitably lead to security risks. Likewise, running outdated hardware will inevitably mean a failure at a time you least need it. Keep your infrastructure strong and stable.

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On services, consider carefully the following. Who pays for your internet connection and equipment? Who is responsible for costs when your service goes down, or if your current connection is not fast enough? Ditto with your power supply – what is your fallback position when this fails? Large budgetary overspends occur reactively in these two areas alone.

Pay particular attention to disaster recovery and backup procedures. Millions of dollars of productive time are lost when a system fails. Ensure you do not underinvest in this area – as this is when your departments IT efficiencies, and probably your job, will invariably be called into question.

And of course – make sure you focus closely on your department and the companies staffing needs. Be aware of any company expansion planned the coming year, which may fall under human resources. As well as noting additional hardware and software requirements, do not ignore the knock on effect on your department and skills set. Do not forget training – which is often considered a discretionary expense. This includes skills building of the IT team as well as all IT users, both on existing and new technology. This is an area which is often neglected – and you need to make a strong case with senior managers on the business benefits and efficiencies by increasing skills.

Finally – and I will repeat this until people are probably sick of it – pay careful attention to two evolving technologies that will definitely impact on your business and can reflect enormous cost benefits. These are cloud services and mobile technology. No company will be able to dodge these two areas in the coming years. Refer to my previous columns for more detail on both these areas.

News Flash – Microsoft Office 2016 is now with us, and I shall provide a more detailed review of this in a future column.

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