It is almost 'next year.'
Budgeting and planning for a new year is hardly something we want to think about and work on now, especially during the holidays. However, many business owners understand the importance of this process as it is key to understanding your cash flow and overall projections of profitability.
Planning for IT is one of those areas that always need to be addressed during the budgeting process. For most companies, IT is a key driver for growth, productivity and client satisfaction.
In this blog, I am going to discuss best practices for planning for these IT expenses. Keep in mind, that IT expenses have a lot of moving parts which is why it is helpful to understand and plan accordingly.
1. Categorize your expenses.
Break out your expenses related to IT equipment, hardware, licensing, and support. This helps to provide more transparency into where your IT spend is going and how much. Categorizing expenses is one of the most effective ways to give you control over your IT budget. These expenses may be categorized as follows:
IT Infrastructure: Hardware, Servers, Desktops, Laptops, Printers, Network equipment, Internet, Software, SaaS Subscriptions, Support
New Projects – For new IT initiatives and projects, list the additional costs and expenses that may be required.
Recurring costs – These are the monthly operational costs related to IT such as internet, fees, and subscriptions.
Labor & Support – This is the cost of the IT talent needed to support your technology. This would include fees from your IT service provider and/or your internal IT support staff. IT skill and resource costs.
Depreciable vs. non-depreciable assets – Work with your accountant to determine which IT assets will be depreciated versus expensed.
2. Budget for IT security and disaster recovery.
All businesses today are faced with increasing costs related to cybersecurity, disaster recovery and business continuity. No matter size or industry, cybersecurity risks are on the rise.
Furthermore, cyber liability insurance providers are demanding more in cybersecurity controls, solutions and processes to write a policy today, as I pointed out in my previous blog.
Your investment in IT cybersecurity should be in line with business needs and requirements from customers and vendors. This is especially true when it comes to compliance requirements for medical and financial businesses.
Consider budgeting for additional IT resiliency such as fail-over internet carriers, colocation data centers, and robust local backup and recovery solutions. It your company is dependent on IT and technology, then investing in this resiliency will pay off.
3. Move from CapEx to OpEx.
CapEx, or capital expenditure, are large upfront costs while OpEx, or operating expenditure, is more in line with a pay-as-you-go model. Your accountant will understand this better as it pertains to your business so be sure to get professional advice on this financial matter.
Cloud solutions and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are good examples of OpEx. You may also take advantage of OpEx when acquiring file servers, storage solutions, PCs and laptops as equipment leasing can be structured as an OpEx lease. Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) is also an innovative way to acquire and refresh your technology and fits nicely with today’s cloud hosting model.
4. Budget for work-from-home and mobile IT.
For many businesses, it appears that a mobile and work-from-home (WFH) workforce is here to stay. Plan for this and determine what this is going to look like for your company.
Will you need to invest more in VPN’s or laptops? For WFH, providing a company-owned laptop or computer will result in a more secured and trouble-free solution. It also allows the company to maintain more control over access to the company’s data.
For mobility, consider budgeting for solutions that will keep your company data from being downloaded, or stolen. This is referred to as a mobile device management (MDM) strategy. For example, laptop thefts in airports are common and can result in the laptop data being stolen. For this reason, you would want a MDM solution that will wipe corporate data from the laptop in the event of this theft.
5. Establish a Technology Roadmap with budget.
A technology roadmap will lay out all IT upgrades, new projects, tech refresh and other IT expenses planned for the year. I like to plan this over a quarter-to-quarter basis and develop more specific quotes or estimates as a supplement.
This is a valuable exercise for the business owner and management team. Using this technology roadmap will ease business planning for cash flow and helps determine the best approach for maintaining and improving your IT.
The technology roadmap should include plans for refreshing hardware and equipment, so you don’t get blindsided with a large expenditure and didn’t see it coming.
For example, you may want to plan on refreshing 25% of your desktops/laptops per year to avoid larger capital outlays. Or, you may have a key file server, firewall or switch that is coming to end-of-life during the year and will no longer be supported by the manufacturer. Include renewals for warranty and support of equipment as these costs can be significant.
6. Track recurring costs.
Recurring expenses for IT can sneak up on you as most of the key technology companies are moving to monthly subscriptions for licensing and cloud solutions.
In addition, these expenses can grow as many business managers will subscribe to SaaS solutions that have not been identified or previously planned. This is commonly referred to as Shadow IT and it tends to get out of control. You may find that these Shadow-IT expenses can be consolidated under a single business account thereby providing savings to the company.
7. Develop IT cost estimate for new hires.
Calculate and track the average amount of money spent for onboarding a new hire with technology. This will include hardware, cell phone, software, SaaS licenses and carrier expenses.
This will help with budgeting for new hires and will also better define the standards for this new equipment and software. For example, is the new hire a standard office computer user or do they need a power workstation? Predefining these standards will optimize your procurement efforts and will result in cost savings.
* * * * *
Budgeting and planning for next year’s IT costs is not the most exciting task to accomplish, yet it may be one of the most important tasks for ensuring a smooth IT experience for your company. By following the guidance outlined in this blog you will be more confident in your planning for a new year.
I also understand how this planning process may require IT support and expertise to get the complete picture. RIATA is here to help you with this process and will help your company develop their Technology Roadmap specific to their business needs.
Contact RIATA today and we’ll be glad to discuss our process and how we can help you plan and budget for next year’s IT costs and expenses.
About the Author: Tommy Wald is CEO of RIATA Technologies, a full-service IT provider located in Austin, TX. He can be reached at TWald@RiataTechnologies.com.