Zero-Based-Budgeting for tech infrastructure

Technology is key for any company to function smoothly, but the IT department is often undercut when it comes to budgets. How can companies rationalise costs?

Updated: Sep 19, 2019 10:10:19 AM UTC
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In a recent incident, one of the major airlines in Europe was hit by an IT failure, resulting in substantial chaos. The ‘systems issue’ impacted the airline severely, with 10 flights from Gatwick and 81 flights from Heathrow being cancelled, and a hit to the company's finances as well as brand image.

A tremendous load is put on IT infrastructure to ensure seamless business operations and avoid unforeseen mishaps like these. How can organisations plan their tech budgets to always be up to speed?.

The challenge is that IT departments usually struggle with budgets. So, how do you rationalise costs?

In the race to meet both top-line and bottom-line growth targets, saving every dollar is critical for maintaining QoQ and YoY margins. Zero-Based-Budgeting (ZBB) is one of the major levers for enhancing growth margins.

ZBB is a method of budgeting developed in the 1970s. It starts from a "zero base" at the beginning of every budget period. It analyses needs and costs of every function within an organisation, and allocates funds accordingly, regardless of the budgets allocated earlier. The primary objective is to prioritise costs for effective business growth and compliance.

Technology budgets usually have two major categories: Discretionary items and non-discretionary items.

  • Discretionary items are non-essential; often ‘desired’ but not ‘needed’. This includes infrastructure for new technology adoption, service enhancements, and augmenting features and user comforts. Organisations do have second thoughts about these expenses and take a balanced view, based on their quarterly performance.
  • Non-discretionary items are essential, referred to as ‘needed’. This includes infrastructure for replacing end-of-life/service items, annual maintenance expenses, committed contractual spends, and critical technical upgrades. This is also called ‘lights-on’ budget, as this determines the organisation’s smooth functioning.

Non-discretionary budgets usually sail through the approval process, while discretionary budgets go through multiple reviews and negotiations that require compelling business cases. Categorisation of technology items into discretionary and non-discretionary areas is also one of the key factors for success in budgeting exercise.

  • Start your budgeting exercise early (in Dec or Jan). This helps in collecting all essential information from discussions, brainstorming, market research, vendor meetings, client feedback, etc.
  • Standardise your data collection template to collect all relevant data from from various sources.
  • Invest time in analysing available data, create reports and charts with logic and reasoning for each line item.
  • Introduce the need for new technologies, service enhancements and automation efforts, supported by a good business plan. This will reduce your management efforts for rest of the year.
  • Think before rationalising human resources, as they can be re-trained for emerging technologies.
  • Prepare well for budget discussions, as the business value of each invested dollar is evaluated.
  • Think like a CFO, not like a techie.

Quoting Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States, “Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.” The fight for budget allocation will continue, but it can be put to rest by showcasing the value for the organisation.

The author is Practice Manager, IT Service, Support and Operations at Infosys BPM.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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  • kushal raut

    Very Informative

    on Sep 20, 2019
  • HS venkataraman

    Insights for the bodget and financial planning.

    on Sep 19, 2019