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It’s proven, time and time again, that a smart investment in technology will make all the difference to an organisation’s business objectives.

However, your resources are finite and, regardless, it isn’t always clear what constitutes a good use of IT budget and what doesn’t.

Follow these three tips to stretch your potential gains and avoid waste in your IT spending.

1. Ditch the annual IT budget in favour of more dynamic planning

Proponents of the ‘beyond budgeting’ model, which involves a rolling monthly (rather than fixed annual) budget, advocate that traditional approaches to yearly IT budgeting are unfit for this modern age of digital transformation, being far too static and restrictive for the demands of increasingly knowledge-driven organisations.  In its place, more and more businesses are focusing on the value they can create by coordinating resources dynamically in response to rapidly changing goals and opportunities.

This approach can apply across the business, but is particularly apt in relation to technology where evolution occurs so aggressively that long term budgeting and planning often become obsolete within the first quarter of a financial year.

ACTION: Road test this radical approach by running it in parallel to your annual budgeting process.  This gives you a safety net to think outside the box and stop forecasting what you think you might need to spend on technology before you’ve even worked out what you actually need to spend it on.

2. Automate away your IT running costs

A hot buzzword in IT right now is ‘automation’, as in the automation of tasks hitherto executed by human beings.  You can attend seminars and conferences on this topic, despite the irony that IT has existed for decades for the central purpose of automating human tasks.

The reality is that while IT has effortlessly automated every industry from food production to accountancy, it has – until recently – done an appalling job of automating itself.  This is why the majority of the average IT budget is committed to ‘keeping the lights on’.  In other words, tending to the needs of hardware and software infrastructure so that IT operations and functions continue without hiccup.  This has proved extremely labour-intensive, and threatens to get worse as IT infrastructure becomes inevitably more complex, greater in scale and more deeply integrated with business processes.

Good examples of IT automation boil down to better tools and processes that save time and eliminate repetitive tasks.  To begin with, that might include equipping IT administrators with simple keyboard shortcuts, or running software that collates disparate system logs into a single, management view that helps faster and more accurate business decision making.

ACTION: Find out more about how IT automation can help reclaim swathes of your present IT budget that are currently dedicated to the management and administration of IT itself, and set a minimum budget target of 25% to be preserved for innovative, business-enabling IT projects.

3. Harness cloud economics and change your IT consumption model

According to the Cloud Industry Forum, 85% of UK businesses will be using at least one public cloud service by 2018, while a total of 63% say they foresee a time when they’ll move their entire IT estate to the cloud.

Unless you’re fascinated by the technology, don’t worry about how cloud computing and cloud-driven IT services actually work.  What’s really clever is how they’ve rewritten the rulebook on how and how much you need to spend on bigger and better business-enabling technology.  Typically charged on a pay-as-you-use utility model – rather than relying on upfront capital expenditure – there are a myriad of robust public cloud IT services from unified communications to on-demand computing power and storage-as-a-service.  For added security and control, many more business now operate their own ‘private cloud’ infrastructures alongside public cloud services.  Both public and private cloud approaches offer significant advantages for greater business agility, business continuity and managed growth.

A good way to start using cloud in your business is for simple data backup, much in the same way that you might use iCloud (or similar) for your personal data.  This opens up numerous opportunities for slicker remote working, cheaper sharing of large files and safer business continuity.

ACTION: Examine the opportunities in your business to lessen the pressure on capital budgets and derive superior cloud-driven IT services on a flat-rate or usage based consumption model.  Use automation and/or a third-party cloud brokerage to avoid the added complexities brought about by managing multiple, hybrid private/public cloud services.

Encourage your people to love technology and become an IT-enabled business

Perhaps ‘love’ is too strong a word, but what we really want to get across are the advantages of having your whole team care and trust IT to make a continuing difference to your business.

The mistake with technology is to view it as an external influencer; something that you commission to inject some value into your business from time to time, rather than as an organic and enduring part of your organisation.

Learning to apply technology in this way has a direct impact on how you’ll budget for IT operations and new initiatives alike. 

But rather than wait for this cultural change to happen, and have its knock-on effect to your IT budget, consider how you can achieve the same goal more quickly by doing it the other way around.

In other words, evolving your budgeting approach to factor in an innate acceptance that business transformation can be achieved through IT.  Then it’s just a case of making your objectives a reality!