By Chris Claudio

Recently I had the privilege of presenting at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce about “Effective Strategic IT Planning,” a topic that I feel strongly about.

All too often I hear that IT budgeting and planning is a complicated and painful procedure that business leaders feel is wrought with hidden costs, endless software and hardware upgrades, and confusing lingo. I am passionate about this topic because stress and confusion around strategic IT planning is simply unnecessary when businesses have a strong relationship with the right IT partner.

In this post, I am going to provide some highlights from my presentation regarding the common “myths” of IT budgeting, with the goal of giving you more confidence and peace of mind during your next IT budgeting cycle.

In the IT field in particular, there are a series of myths surrounding “best practices.” These myths are often driven by vendor marketing departments looking to push as much product as possible, or by IT providers with deep relationships with specific vendors who may have other interests in mind, rather than those of your business.

While strong supplier relationships are important, be sure that your IT services partner spends their time advocating for you rather than a specific product. In my presentation at the Chamber, I covered 10 myths that we commonly hear. Below are the four most pervasive and damaging to your budget process:

  1. PC and other device life cycles are every three years. Often IT providers work closely with specific vendors, and while this can certainly be a benefit to have this expertise and buying power in your corner, be sure the IT provider/vendor relationship is not such that you are being sold products that you do not need or that are not a great fit for your environment. Your trusted IT services partner should be just that; yours and trusted.
  1. Software life cycles are every three years. Software can fall into the same three-year life-cycle trap as your physical devices and has the same validity as the advice to “wait 30 minutes before you swim after eating.” With the right partner, upgrades and migrations should only be made if and when you and your environment are ready and such a move fits in with your strategic business plan.  While you do need to be aware of the life of your products with regards to effectiveness and reliability, the refresh cycle should be rooted in your strategic business objectives, and therefore might not be something that is scheduled like clockwork. A good IT services partner will work with you on prudent and realistic time tables.
  1. Small businesses don’t need to worry about information security because they don’t have as much to lose and aren’t a target.  This is probably the most incorrect and troubling of the myths. Everyone is a target of a data breach, from enterprise level businesses to small- and medium-sized organizations. Although SMBs certainly don’t have the high profile of some larger organizations that have been the target of attacks recently, the risk is equally as great. Be sure your IT provider has the staff and processes in place to support your environment to best prepare your defense against these attacks. A trusted IT partner who truly has the infrastructure in place to support your business should have IT security experts who can help ensure your devices and your people are ready.
  1. My IT service partner takes care of my backups and disaster recovery (DR). Another dangerous myth is one surrounding backups and disaster recovery. It is often assumed that when outsourcing or contracting for IT support and services that backups and DR are simply “included.” Similar to IT security, backups and DR are critical components of a healthy IT environment. Critical to this is documented process and planning on exactly what is being backed up and a very clear roadmap to follow should a disaster strike.  Finally, backups are ultimately your responsibility as a business, so make sure there is full clarity on what is actually happening to safeguard your data in the event of a failure.

Being aware of some of these myths is the first step to a less painful IT budgeting cycle. The right IT partner can help you navigate these myths and avoid common pitfalls that usually result in unnecessary costs. Additionally, you’ll likely find you have a little more money every year because you’re investing where you need to, not where vendors want you to.

In the end, a sound strategic IT plan will drive the investments based on business initiatives and pragmatic technology needs.

In my next post, I will discuss the second half of my presentation covering “The Five Principles that Should Drive IT Budgeting.”

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