Budgeting can be a harrowing experience or an opportunity to show that you are a business leader who can help your company accomplish its overall goals.
By Larry Bonfante
As a big fan of Looney Tunes I lovingly recall Elmer Fudd, shotgun in hand, watching Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny get into a spirited debate as to whether it was duck season or “wabbit” season. This comes to mind as many of us start to prepare for budget season or, as I lovingly call it, begging for dollars!
The idea of having to justify a budget strikes fear into the hearts of many CIOs. While for some this may feel like the IT version of “The Spanish Inquisition” (OK, I’m now having a Monty Python flashback!), here are a few steps we can take to lower our anxiety level in preparation for this process.
1. Create context. Make sure your board of directors understands how your investment in IT compares with key industry metrics, especially in your vertical industry. For many this may be reflected as a percentage of revenue. I always remind my board that we are delivering IT operational services for less than half the average for the sports and entertainment industry.
2. Make sure you articulate IT as an investment, not a cost. What has been the quantitative or qualitative return on investment of the projects you have implemented? What have you done that has directly impacted either top line revenue or bottom line financial results? How have these efforts impacted your brand awareness or the customer experience for the better?
3. Have the business leaders who will benefit from these efforts serve as project sponsors. We have a rule: no sponsor, no project! If a project is important enough to the business leader, then she should be willing to stand up in front of the board and request the investment. And she should be willing to have someone on her team act as the project manager; this individual will have incentives built into his or her performance management review based upon the project’s successful outcome.
4. Translate results into business language, not Geek speak! Make sure people know in words they understand what will be different because of these efforts. Don’t talk about access control. Instead, talk about protecting your brand and keeping your organization off the front page of The Wall Street Journal.
5. Understand your organization’s current business situation. Nothing makes you look more out of touch than asking for a larger budget, without the commensurate ROI, when your company is hemorrhaging money!
6. Realize that every dollar spent on technology is a dollar not being directly spent on R&D, sales, marketing and so on. You are an executive and should be focused on the overall goals of the organization. You should only ask for money if you feel this is the best or at least an excellent investment of money.
7. Finally spend the money like it’s yours. After all, if you are an executive of the company, it is your money in essence! Make sure that this investment is what you would do if you were literally the one writing the check.
Budgeting can be a harrowing experience or an opportunity to show that you are a business leader who can help your company accomplish its overall goals. How you go about it will determine this outcome.
About the Author
Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.
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