No matter what job you have, no matter what the industry, you use tools. The types of tools vary—from hand tools, heavy equipment, and electronics to pencils, books, and flashlights. However, there is one tool all small businesses have in common: computers.
Computers help us communicate, write documents, keep track of meetings, and allow us to store data. Regardless of your small-business IT needs, you still have needs. Your business must make a plan to manage those IT needs. If that doesn’t happen, your IT infrastructure will fail, or at least cost you time and money. It’s like Winston Churchill said during World War II: “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” Here we look at nine reasons small businesses must have an IT budget plan.
1. To Control Costs. A budget will allow you to spend money when you need it. It ensures that the funds will be available (according to your budget) when you need new equipment, software, upgrades, or training.
2. To Keep Equipment Current. Hardware and software are constantly changing. Existing equipment wears out or stops performing as required—it has to be replaced. A well-thought-out budget plans for those upgrades and replacement cycles and will limit downtime due to failed or obsolete equipment.
3. To Make Sure Your Employees Have the Tools They Need. Your budget is a means for acquiring the tools your employees will need to do their jobs. Not having the proper tool—or not having the tools at all—will prevent them from working efficiently. It will increase costs, reduce productivity, and reduce profits.
4. To Encourage Your Business to Articulate Its Vision, Strategy, and Goals. Plans are there to make sure everyone is working toward the same goals. Having a plan for your IT department will let everyone know where you are headed and what tools will get you there. Your IT budget will grant a sense of confidence to your employees and department heads because they know their tools will be provided for. It reduces worry from company leadership because a plan is in place.
5. To Make Sure You Are Meeting All Your Needs. How do you know what you need if you don’t evaluate your needs and plan for them? A budget will look at your current needs and ensure they are all taken care of. A great budget will anticipate future needs and provide a road map for fulfilling those needs.
6. To Promote Predictability (…and Your Boss Will Love That). Your boss does not like surprises. Surprises are difficult to deal with and often take away valuable resources, personnel, and time. An IT budget will reduce surprise technology costs, and that will make your boss very happy.
7. To Ensure the Company Is Ready for Future IT Needs. Your budget includes more than your immediate needs—it plans for the future. Without those plans, you will have no way of knowing what you will need to finance the company’s IT needs.
8. To Provide a Number That Management Can Use to Determine Daily Operating Costs. Management likes numbers—reliable, real-world numbers. Projecting your IT budget will help management plan for all of the company’s needs beyond IT. It allows them to make sure they have enough cash to give you a nice bonus this year.
9. To Make Sure You Have the Funds to Fit Your Needs. An IT plan and budget’s reason for existing is to make sure you have what you need. Knowing what it will cost will also tell you if it’s even possible. It may turn out that the company simply does not have the cash to do what IT needs. That means you will have to adjust your plan to fit the resources available. Without this plan, you could end up in a situation where you don’t get what you need and have no funds left to make adjustments. The tech you have may be great, but if you don’t have everything you need, then it’s worthless. And you’re out of money.
Making a plan and a budget for your IT department is a must. It guarantees you have the tools you need to do your job, and it also plans for future needs. Technology typically runs on a three-year cycle. After those three years, your hardware and software will need to be replaced. Waiting longer than that could cost you more money in the long run. Don’t forget that by not spending money on IT, you could be spending more money in the long run.
Not maintaining your IT hardware will cost you in downtime, wasted time waiting on old or run-down equipment, startup times, and time spent troubleshooting failed equipment. These items are difficult to measure, but they add up. Pony up the dough in a line item, or pony up the dough in wasted time—you decide. Make a plan ahead of time so that won’t be an issue.