CXO

Free tutorials help managers write better budgets

Does the mere mention of the word "budget" make your heart race? Do you break out in a cold sweat every time someone mentions project planning and justification? Get a handle on IT budgeting and performance management at this useful site.


One visit to the IT Budgeting and IT Performance Management—The Online Resource reveals a wealth of IT-related financial planning information. The site is run by Resource Management Systems, Inc. (RMS), a consulting firm specializing in budgeting, project planning, performance metrics, and cost control.

What’s so special about this site? First, it is geared specifically to IT professionals who have varying levels of experience with the budgeting process. Second, RMS has focused on “three of the most challenging non-technical IT issues:”
  • Making IT budgeting less painful and more productive
  • Aligning IT with organizations' strategic and business plans
  • Bridging the communications gap between IT organizations and senior management

Tutorials provide a crash course in budget preparation
The Tutorial Series is located in the Learning Center portion of the site. It houses the following free online instruction:
  • What Every Manager Needs to Know About Budgeting

  • This tutorial begins by giving the most common misconceptions about budgets and tearing them down with reasonable arguments in non-financial terms. The site says RSM’s aim with this tutorial is to provide “a brief, high-level introduction to some important and fundamental budgeting concepts… from the operations and project manager’s point of view.”
  • Writing Effective Project Proposals

  • This tutorial is more theoretical than practical. It provides information about how to approach proposal writing from various angles. It includes a broad overview of “what to expect, how to get started, the information proposals typically contain, and how the process works. This will help jump-start the first-time writer’s proposal and avoid some common pitfalls along the way.”
  • Get Your IT Project Funded—5 Steps to Improve the Odds

  • This tutorial provides a step-by-step guide to preparing a project budget justification. It walks you through the process of identifying and understanding your audience, outlining the key points, adding the necessary details, and assembling them coherently before you actually create the proposal. It provides key points you’ll want to remember as you write and review your project justification.
  • Introduction to the IT Investment Management Approach

  • This tutorial provides an overview of the evaluation practices of some leading organizations. “Essentially, the approach is an analytical framework for linking IT projects/activities and investment decisions to an organization's strategic goals and business plans.”If you want to include the value of your proposed project in terms of your organization’s strategic goals, this tutorial provides a point of reference for understanding that relationship.
  • IT Performance Management

  • This tutorial is for those with no experience measuring and managing the impact of IT projects on an organization’s strategic goals and objectives. It offers an overview of the fundamental principles of “non-technical performance measurement and management systems applicable to IT projects and activities.” It defines “performance management” in terms of IT organizations, and outlines the things you should know before taking on an IT performance management project.

    Other resources for IT financial planning
    The site also offers a series of self-tests to measure your organization’s approach to IT operations, projects, budgeting, decision-making, and investments against “best practices organizations.” The only test available at the time of this writing is the IT Investment Management Approach Assessment Self-Test, which is promoted as a way to compare your ”selection, control, and evaluation processes” with those of leading organizations.

    Another highlight of the site is the Visitor Forum. These include a Research Center featuring an article collection on topics regarding IT economics, and an index of glossaries with terms associated with:

    More help from TechRepublic
    TechRepublic has no shortage of apropos articles. Get the inside scoop on what the budget committee really thinks in Bob Artner’s "Budget talks: What you say vs. what they hear." Then learn what your fellow TR members had to say about it in "Readers offer more tips for winning budget talks." If you’ve already spent yourself into a corner, try "The dreaded 'That's more money than we've budgeted'" article for some inspiration. Read about the problems of your contemporaries in "An IT manager speaks out: 'The most difficult budget challenge I've ever faced'", or if you’re starting from the very beginning try "Learn to juggle a project budget."

    Finally, if you’re feeling low or discouraged, read a success story in "The surprise network installation: An IT manager describes his dream project." You’ll be inspired by this story of a project manager in the U.S. Air Force who submitted a request to manage his dream project—and the military approved his plan!
    What advice do you offer those trying to justify training allocations in their next budgets? What are your major stumbling blocks when it comes to budgetary issues? What’s your “trump card” for gaining approval for your IT projects? Tell us about it in an e-mail message, or post your comments below.

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