For your business to stay competitive, establishing an effective and efficient IT budget is essential. It goes without saying that your business depends on technology to survive, but your budget is also a tool to optimize available funding and allocate it in a way that supports your overall IT strategy. Budgeting effectively will save time and money spent on unplanned IT needs that inevitably arise in the absence of a transparent and well-thought-out plan. The process of creating a budget should help you identify deficiencies and reduce waste, as well as forecast, prioritize, and justify strategic IT expenditures. Your budget shouldn’t just be an IT “wish list.” It should serve as a blueprint to ensure funding for initiatives that align with your company’s long-term goals.
So how do you go about creating an IT budget?
Identify Your IT Inventory
Efficient budgeting begins with a comprehensive assessment of your current IT resources, including an inventory of hardware, software, network infrastructure, services, subscriptions, and staffing. Identifying your existing resources (along with your technical debt) is fundamental to budgeting for the future. Previous budgets can serve as a baseline and a tool–learn from the past, but don’t be afraid to make changes to support evolving business goals.
Set Clear IT Objectives
Now that you have a clear picture of what you have to work with, it’s time to establish your IT objectives. What do you want your technology to achieve in the coming year and beyond? Your objectives might include enhancing cybersecurity, upgrading hardware, improving customer support systems, or implementing new software. A careful examination of previous years’ budgets likely brought to light areas of overspending and technical debt. Setting clear objectives will make it easier to trim fat and allocate funds more effectively.
Prioritize and Justify IT Initiatives
Which IT investments are essential and which are nice-to-haves? Are there significant projects in the coming year that require technology upgrades or additional IT support? Spending should be prioritized to reflect the objectives you’ve set. Be prepared to clearly communicate your IT strategy, its impact, and the projected ROI of your initiatives. Present a cohesive plan and be able to articulate how your proposed budget will support overall business goals.
Allocate Resources To IT
Divide your IT budget into categories, beginning with ongoing expenses. This should include the following:
- Hardware: servers; computing equipment, for in-office and remote workers; and network infrastructure
- Software: subscriptions, licenses, and support contractss
- Personnel: both employees and outsourced staff, and expenses related to recruitment
- Security: cybersecurity should be a significant component of your IT budget. Security threats are ever-evolving, so allocate funds for regular security assessments, employee training, and the implementation of robust security tools.
- Training: employee training is often the first thing to go when budgets get cut, but knowledgeable employees are essential to maximize the value of your tech investments.
Your project-specific expenses should also be outlined in the same way, including any consulting fees, contract staff, and administrative costs, along with additional office space, hardware, and software required. Be realistic about costs and allow some wiggle room for unexpected expenses that may arise. Identify future investments needed to support your overall IT strategy. Leave room in your budget for scalability, including necessary upgrades and expansion of IT support staff.
We coach our customers on the 2-3% rule for IT budgeting. If you are trying to maintain a steady state, budget 2% of your top line revenue to go toward IT. If you are looking to grow, changing business strategies or preparing for a large change in your company, budget 3%. Of that 3%, ~50% should go toward managed services and labor and ~50% on cloud licenses, your internet service provider and new hardware.
Leveraged Managed IT Services
Outsourcing some of your IT needs to managed IT service providers can help control costs and ensure you have access to expert support when needed. Proactive monitoring and network maintenance will reduce unexpected spending and provide peace of mind.
Budgeting for IT isn’t just about managing expenses. It’s about investing strategically to drive business growth and improve efficiency. Your budget ensures that your technology aligns with your business goals. A well-structured IT budget is your roadmap, and a vital tool for success in the digital age.