Innovation

Diary of Edward Chen: Battling the budget

The art of negotiating is a critical skill for IT managers. In the final installment of his daily diary, manager Edward Chen describes his strategy for talking about money with vendors and his own CFO.


This week, IT Manager Republic has featured the daily diary of Edward Chen, an IT manager for a nonprofit public broadcasting station. This is the final installment.

8:30 A.M.
The first thing I do today is run an audit of our server room entries for the past two weeks. We currently have a door lock system, which records successful and failed entry attempts into the server room.

It prints out fairly slowly, but it’s a great audit tool to see who has been in the server room or has tried to gain access to it. It also gives me an idea of how early or late my staff are arriving or staying. I had to talk to several people about balancing work and life because they were staying here until 11:00 P.M. and as late as 1:00 A.M.

Catch up on the week!
"Diary of Edward Chen: Planning to launch a Web site update" "Diary of Edward Chen: Dealing with vendors" "Diary of Edward Chen: Living with legal issues" "Diary of Edward Chen: Offering support is all in a day's work"

9:00 A.M.
I call the system administrator into my office to review the capabilities of Microsoft Project Central, Microsoft’s workgroup solution for Project. We are attempting to migrate or load our current project plan in the .mpp file format to the Project Central Web server, but it’s not working.

We spent some time searching for the solution. We tried the following:
  • ·        As recommended by Microsoft, we have the Project 2000 SR-1 patch and the correct Tools/Options settings.
  • ·        We ran all the administration scripts on the SQL database.
  • ·        We installed the Workgroup “client” for Project 2000.

Nothing seems to be working. It says it is successful in loading the data, but nothing is brought over when we check the Web interface. We check the Microsoft Knowledge Base again and come up empty handed.

At this point, I decide to enter each individual task into the server when I have some time later next week. I want to use Project Central to allow my staff to make updates simultaneously to the same project plan. I am having the system administrator continue testing the details of Project Central’s application capabilities before I input all the data. She will get back to me next week on whether or not she feels it’s appropriate for the team.

10:00 A.M.
I am sending out drawings to an outside consultant via e-mail using a companion application to the eBeam solution called the eBeam Moderator.

The eBeam solution captures drawings from any whiteboard and saves them as picture files or PDFs. It is a fantastic solution, especially when you don’t want to invest in costly whiteboards with built-in scanning and printing systems.

The eBeam uses infrared or radio signals to capture your markings on the whiteboard via receivers with suction cups adhering to the board. You can use standard dry erase markers as the markers are encased in a hard plastic “jacket” running on thin batteries. The eBeam hardware connects to your laptop via a serial port and, using the free eBeam Moderator application, captures all your drawings on the whiteboard. It even comes with an eraser.

The only cautionary point is—what you draw is what you get. So if your handwriting stinks, the captured picture will too.

10:30 A.M.
I speak with the legal department to discuss the Web agency contract. This initial agreement is for some preliminary work, and we are waiting to confirm the total project budget before we execute the larger agreement.

I had some concerns on this initial agreement because the agency plans to subcontract work to other vendors. I wanted the contract to be clear—our organization should approve of those sub-contractors.

11:00 A.M.
I am in a meeting with our former IT trainer who taught staff members on general PC usage and Microsoft Office applications. She decided to leave after her maternity leave ended. She is returning to the office for her farewell lunch and to discuss the possibility of contracting with our organization to continue the training program.

Due to budgetary restrictions, I can’t fill her position so this strategy might be a good alternative. She gives me the rates she wants to charge per class, and they are very reasonable. I need to confer with the CFO and get funding approval. I think he’ll be supportive since these rates are in line.

2:00 P.M.
I am in a conference call with a potential CRM vendor. The director of new media and I are looking at CRM vendors to assist in automating and managing outbound and inbound e-mails to and from our audience.

We started out looking at simplistic listservs, which really did not meet our needs. Then we looked at larger CRM vendors for complete solutions. The price tag and feature set of this project is growing. We need to cap this project creep.

During the conference call, I explain our requirements and needs. I also explain to them that we want the solution to have inherent row-level security so departments can work within a subset of the larger database. The political environment within our organization is not conducive to sharing data, so we want to start off with a “segregated” database and move later to a more unified database.

I fear the project will not be a long-term success if no one uses it because it can’t apply security to individual records and fields within records. Attempting to force sharing of data by management has failed previously, so I am trying not to repeat history.

I think if people see the tactical advantages and possibilities that come with sharing data, they are more likely to release “ownership” of their departmental databases. In the end, we’ll have the unified database we want. Meanwhile, we will have always taken advantage of the solution’s feature set. It will just be easier to administer and use in the end.

3:00 P.M.
I meet with our purchasing manager to discuss the IT budget for the next fiscal year. I am attempting to align her general ledger coding practices to match my budget codes so that reports from finance for the next fiscal year make more sense. As it is now, I am unable to easily compare budgeted amounts to actual expenditures.

A large part of an IT manager’s success is based on being familiar with your corporate and departmental financials and feeling at ease in dealing with budgets, financial reports, and other accounting practices.

Most corporate officials want to cut spending in IT because it is considered a large cost center. However, I have found that if I show the return on investment or explain the disadvantages of reducing spending in IT, I can reverse the decision to cut IT spending. To be realistic though, you’ll still have to take some cuts in this tight economy. Luckily, our CFO understands the need for technology investments. I wouldn’t be working here if he did not.

4:00 P.M.
I am wrapping up my day and sending out the last of my e-mails. I suddenly remember I have not heard from the potentially new streaming vendor. I call my account manager and he does not have good news.

The account manager does not want to commit to an answer as things may change during the weekend, but it doesn’t look like the two vendors were able to work out an amiable agreement. It looks as if we will be staying with our current streaming provider for next year because they can’t buy out the contract. He will give me the final answer Monday.

I am disappointed, but I hope we can do business with this vendor. They are also in the managed colocation business, and we may use them to host the new version of our Web site and for other on-demand streaming needs.

Budget battles
What are your top tips for convincing the CFO not to cut IT spending? Post a comment or send us a letter.

 

Editor's Picks