6 Tips for Successful IT Budget Planning

How to win over finance and other departments to get your IT budget approved

Ah, the beginning of the new year. Time for new beginnings, new resolutions and new budget requests. It’d be nice if IT budget planning were a simple process, but depending on the culture at your workplace, and the value your company and its finance department places on technology, it can be difficult to get approvals. Regardless of whether you’re pumped or stumped by this year’s budget planning process, we’ve assembled a few tips to help you experience more success with approvals from your CFO and other financial decision-makers. Below, we’ve gathered our top six tips for transforming your checklist into a checkmate in 2017.

1. Set Priorities and Gather Support

You’ve got needs and you’ve got wants, so be sure to put them in order, or you could risk getting approval for a want while a need goes unmet. Once you have prioritized your list, set it aside. Next, go talk to leaders and influencers in various departments that will benefit from the budget items you are considering proposing. Seek their honest input and you might find that you have allies who are willing to support you in your request and lobby for particular items with you. For example, if you are anxious to replace an expensive legacy video system because it constantly requires IT staff to abandon more important work in order to troubleshoot, talk to the people in departments who are regularly using video. In addition, talk to departments who have remote teams but aren’t using the legacy system. Find out what their workarounds are and why they are avoiding the legacy system. When you’ve finished gathering input and allies, revisit your original list of priorities and make any changes necessary.

2. Check Your Alignment

Aligning every item in your budget with a business objective is the best way to demonstrate to your CFO the strategic value of IT. Moreover, it shows that you are committed to what’s best for the whole company, and it validates your requests in a way almost no other data can. For example, if the C-suite has recently mandated that innovation is a top priority, then make it a top priority in your IT budget planning to show how the purchase you are seeking will meet this objective. As you align budget items with company goals, be sure you describe each investment request in clear and concise terms, and avoid overly technical phrases. Talk about what need each item addresses, who will benefit from its purchase, and why it is ideal for meeting company goals.

3. Count the Costs

Everyone’s experienced a moment where the joy of a major purchase was quickly soured by hidden costs. To avoid creating this scenario for your CFO, consider the cost of each item from every angle, and include all possible additional costs in the budget. In an article featured in CIO, Raghavan Rajaji, CFO of Evergreen Coast Capital shared, “There are few things more distressing to a CFO than being told up front about only part of the costs involved in a proposed project. The surprise ending comes later, when a bunch more money is suddenly needed to keep things going. For example, it’s not unusual to see a budget that includes the software and hardware costs of an IT project, but not the additional costs for ongoing maintenance or consultants required to do the implementation.”

4. Prepare for Surprises

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to account for all cost increase scenarios, surprises happen.
Ironically, the best way to handle surprises is to be prepared for them by creating wiggle room in your proposed budget. Jarrett G. Meiers, a technology strategist for Blueprint Essential recommends adding a category in your budget for miscellaneous and unplanned purchases. “Everyone knows things fail unexpectedly and urgent needs come up so you might as well have an area that addresses the very real possibility. I wouldn’t go overboard, but leave enough room for some of the more common failure points such as computers, monitors, printers, peripherals, and network hardware,” said Meiers.

5. Do Your Homework

Contacting a vendor’s sales rep when you don’t have approval to make a purchase may sound counterintuitive, but there’s method in the madness. By beginning sales talks early and developing a short list of preferred vendors, you give yourself time to learn the pros and cons of doing business with each vendor. Additionally, you may learn about discounts your company qualifies for that aren’t advertised in sales materials. Vetting vendors early can also help you reach budget planning goals because it puts you in a position to negotiate a better deal by comparing the costs of top vendors and allowing them to compete for potential business.

6. Double Down on Data

When it comes to IT budget planning, data is your friend. CFOs and their kind love numbers, so make sure you include compelling statistics to build excitement for the benefits your budget items will bring. For example, if you are passionate about purchasing a new video conferencing system for your company and you’ve found that it aligns perfectly with a company-wide initiative to reduce costs, give decision-makers permission to get excited with you by citing past results similar companies have achieved that show the potential and opportunity video offers. Ask your current pool of potential vendors to arm you with information and equip you with numbers from their case studies that demonstrate the many ways video has saved their clients’ money, from travel costs for sales reps and video interviews for HR, to reduced office real estate costs from employing more remote workers, etc.

You’ve Got This

We hope our tips help you get everything on your budget wish list. After all, working with others to realize goals is what Highfive video conferencing is all about. Our easy-to-use and love, all-in-one HD video and audio devices empower people to connect face-to-face and communicate, collaborate and innovate with ease. Featuring best-in-class quality and a budget-friendly price, we make it easy to give every meeting space in your workplace a Highfive.

By Sara Moseley