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The R00kie
My boss asked me the other day that for a company our size, what should we be spending on IT?
I had no idea how to answer him.

We are a private practice in the health care industry with about 150 employees spread out across 20 locations. We do no in house software development or anything. We run a client server app on win2003, office, and files shares, etc. Nothing to fancy. Finally, we do about $25mil a year in revenue. Our biggest challenges are serving that many remote locations, and improving the performance of our client server app across the WAN. We have a like grade C network at the moment, I am trying to move it to a grade A, at least grade B. I am trying to automate, and centralize things as well as do TS/Citrix, etc.


What do you think we should spend? Of course it depends on what your doing. If your building a new server that year then you will spend more. So I have no idea how to answer that.
Also, how much IT staff should we have, to do everything in house. (Support, maintenance, development of new infrastructure, etc.)
Right now I am the only one, lol.

If you are like me and have know clue how to answer this, can you think of a good way to find out? We are the largest practice our this type in the country so it is hard to find someone like us. What I would love to see is a list of companies with 100-200 emps, doing around 25mil, in the helthcare industry, and see what they spend and how many staff they have. I don't think thats in a database anywhere though.

Thank you for your time and input,

Dan
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    JamesRL

    To do the math.

    The Gartner group do survey companies on IT spending, and they would be able to give you information based on the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

    What you wont get is something down the level of granularity that you want - comparing yours to another of your size. Be careful here - every company is different. You could compare yourself to another company in the same field and with the same number of employees, but if they have fewer locations, certain costs would be lower. The best you can really hope for is a range - if you know that companies in your SIC code spend between 3-5% of their total revenue on IT, and you spend 4.5, and you know you have extraordinary costs for ....networking, then thats a pretty good benchmark.

    As for staffing, thats more difficult. Some companies emphasize resolving the call from the help desk and remote support, and staff up their help desk. Others rely more on desktop support techs at the desktop - one isn't right and the other wrong, its just different.

    I did do this at a previous firm, and we had some challenges. Just determing what our "revenue" was had its challenges - ask your controller, its not always as simple as whats in the annual report. I found my company didn't fit neatly into one SIC code, so I blended two. And I had a year subsription to Gartner so they were helpful.

    James

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    The R00kie

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I will look into this Gartner Group.

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    Why Me Worry?

    Gartner is one of the most biased and unrealistic companies to exist in this industry. They will come in and over-exagerate your costs, telling you that you need to allocate 50% to 80% more money to the IT budget than what you realistically need to operate.

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    The R00kie

    Your complaining because they tried to get you alot of money to operate?

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    JamesRL

    Cause I have. And I poured over it for hours, worked with my CFO, made sure we did a valid comparison.

    And guess what. We were spending below average, but not a huge amount below, a fraction of a percent. For our company we spend about 4.5% of revenue on IT, and other similar companies in our industry averaged 5%.

    I've worked for a polling firm and know a fair amount of survey methodoligies and from my perspective, their method was sound.

    And I would not disagree that they are too expensive. And they don't share my perspective on a lot of IT issues. But in this case they were spot on.


    James

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    The R00kie

    I just found out about them. I got the impression from the site they were expensive and might not be for a business our size. I am going to look into it further. Good to know that their methodologies are sound though.

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    JamesRL

    I was a subscriber to them, which meant I got unlimited access to their publications and time with their analysts.

    But you can just buy an individual publication. The costs range from the low thousands on up. the spending survey is pretty big, I would bet it is one of the more expensive items.

    James

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    hammaren

    Gartner try to convince people they play in the SMB market but fuggetaboutit. Last time a friend worked for them they billed out at something like $7500 a day, and that was years ago. What you need is anecdotal info from people who play in that market. Our company does outsourcing in SMB. Our largest client is a bit bigger, but same number of locations from VA to MA, but mostly NJ. About five major apps, and very little programming in-house by us, and no IT people of their own. 10 servers, Exchange, Citrix, all supported by VPN to every site. We have two people essentially full-time plus a partner who manages them and bills about half-time there. Although these are estimates, I would say hardware and software expenditures are about $200K / year and our costs are about 1.5 to twice what employees would cost, but I have never seen a company with employees doing IT that were that productive, since we account for every task in our invoices.

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    The R00kie

    If we had that much to spend, we would not need their advice.

    When you say hardware and software, does that include T1s, phones lines, phone system, etc. or just the PCs, servers, and networking equipment?

    I am very productive and I am not a contractor. Do you pay as much attention to detail as in house would? Do you do those tasks that you just can't bill for because they don't fit into any category? Thats the problem I had when I was an outside contractor. I like it much better working in house now. As I get more experience though I may go back to that.


    Thank you for the input. We are near that number as well.

    Dan

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    IT-Fulano

    The budget for government sponsored/operated hospitals is generally public information. Get a few of these and compare with your operations. Govt operations are also usually bear-bones operations so you might get a more realistic figure. IMHO

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    The R00kie

    Thanks. I'll look into that.

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    jdmercha

    I would charge you about $200k per year. This would include the cost of equipment and basic software as well as salaries.

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    The R00kie

    So to set up servers and other services, would be like 200k plus or minus 50k depending on what features we want I am sure. And then like 200k each year to maintain it?

    Sounds about right. With telecommunication bills and other expenses that would be like 500k or 2% of revenues.

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    drowningnotwaving

    Took me two phone calls to friends who are in your industry to find out. Yes, that is 2.5 mil per year including headcount, hardware, apps and infrastructure.

    Some company provides the application software you use. Call that company. Ask for help. They will tell you an outrageous number. Use your judgement to adjust their response accordingly.

    If you are not using application software in your company, you need to go get a job that you understand.

    In fact, go speak to your CFO or Financial Controller. The business premise of this question is way over your head, from the sounds of your first note. If you want to answer your boss properly then go to these people and ask for help.

    Plus what country are you in? If a medical practice with 150 employees and 20 locations makes it the biggest there is, you must be in the Antarctic.

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    The R00kie

    We spend no where near that much. Nor would we ever.
    Of course we are using application software.
    We indeed are the largest private practice of this type in the United States, could be in the world for that matter.

    "If you are not using application software in your company, you need to go get a job that you understand."
    I have no idea what that means, but whatever.

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    AV .

    If I were you, I would interview several system integrators that specialize in the healthcare industry and ask each of them what they can do to improve your network. Choose the one that you think has the resources to accomplish and support your future goals. Get a detailed system analysis of how they can improve your network. The most important thing is to have a good business relationship with your integrator and acceptance of the plan from your management. That is key.

    I am in IT at a business of the same size - 140 people - but its a law firm. There are 2 IT people and a system integrator. There are 5 offices. We do remote support, but absolutely there is not enough in-house people because of the constant demand for technology. The system integrator is only used for major upgrades.

    I think you shouldn't totally base your IT budget on how much revenue your company has, it should be based on how your company can become more competitive or innovative. Maybe you might initially spend more to put the infrastructure in place, but the costs will go down after that because you just have to maintain it.

    I refer to different trade journals for the legal industry to see what other law firms are doing. I'm sure there are good trade journals for the healthcare industry that offer the same kind of information.

    There are no databases with information about what companies spend on technology because it all depends on how much of a committment a company will make to technology. It all depends on the management.

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    The R00kie

    Very good, sound advice. Thank you.
    I have 2 different companies I am working with at the moment. I should have some designs in a month or so. I am finding that I am not very skilled as of yet at defining and communicating the benefits to management. As I see the design come together hopefully that will become clearer.

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    AV .

    Well, Dan, getting the budget approved by management is the hard part. The companies you hire should be able to give you some justification for the expenditures, aside from your opinions. Its always important to spend time meeting with people from the different departments in your company. Their needs and problems will provide you with a good justification as well as support for your projects when you present your ideas to management.

    Make sure you build in more money than what you intend to spend (for the unforseen). That way, you're sure to stay within your budget or even spend less, making you look real good to management.

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    haridas53

    We should not try to fix the budget before arriving at an optimum solution. We can phase out the development and implementation in such a way to suit the company's financial conditions. The important factor is that the foundation of the solution should cater for both the present and future expansion plan of the company. Basically "Plan for total requirement and implement in as per priority and reurn of benefits"

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    existis

    This could be a function of your company's budget. In other words, the spending for IT could be anywhere between a 5% and a 12% of the annual corporate budget. You should set up your limits based on the ROI and other justifications. If your IT expenses are close to 50% of your annual budget then you can start looking for ways to shave expenses to increase your profitability. Do your calculations and deterrmine your %.

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    AV .

    You can't create a budget before you really know the costs and details of what it will take to implement projects. Projects can be implemented by priority or over a longer period of time if a company's financial condition warrants it. Of course, any project should have a long-term return on investment.

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    The R00kie

    Thank you for the insight all.

    Identify what you want. Determine costs. Compromise and then compromise some more.
    I am sure it will go something like that.

    Definitely a good idea to speak to as many possible. I think I already know what they need but I bet I'm wrong.

    Dan

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    jhurford

    I did some review of analyst reports a couple years ago. Industries hovered around 5% of gross revenue. Government agencies (more regulation, no profit) were closer to 7%. That's off the top of my head, but will find those analyses.

    Of course, 5% is steady state. If you were significantly above or below in prior years, you should trend the opposite direction this year. This implies $1.25M IT Budget for your $25M company.

    FYI. The target for IT security is 5% of IT budget. Results may vary depending on how fast you are trying to implement something.

    Lastly, Gartner does an annual it spending report broken down by industry and size.

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    SWells

    What is the use of saying that we must use some% of our revenue for IT? You have to spend what you need to spend to get the level of technology you require. The obvious word here is REQUIRE.

    Personally I would be working out a plan of exactly what I want to do over the next 3 years and where I want the company to be IT wise. Then and only then can you work out a budget. Remember that the initial installation/upgrade phase is always more expensive, licenses etc. Once implimented then your budget changes to a maintenace role which is different again.

    What I am tryning to say is, you have to spend what you and your company have determined is what you can spend dependent on ROI and the reliance on technology in your company. I have setup a few systems using "front desk", a basic client MSSQL backend type of app, in a couple of small practices here in Australia. One didn't want to spend the money on the internet technology and the other one did. Which one do you think runs better? The first one runs really slow and un-reliably because the infrastructure is not good enough, all because they didn't budget for it. First thing I did when I went in was to spend a lot of cash fixing this infrastructure.

    Work out what you need to do over the next 3 years then work out how much it will cost.

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    smithks

    I agree with SWells. I work for a commercial construction company, ~$200M per year, ~400 employees. I am the only one in the IT Department. I spend less than .25% of revenue maintaining IT. but I have spent more than that building it up and if we have special needs that creep up, it requires more.
    The budget should be based on the need, which will obviously be more during growing/building years than maintenance years.
    Put a plan together of where you want to go, get buy-in, then budget for it.

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    The R00kie

    The percentage just lets you know where you are in relation to others in your industry. Who hopefully have similar IT needs, at least in a general sense. When I determine the costs for my design it may help rule out what has to go and serve as parameter to stay within, no?
    I guess it gives you some level of reassurance about what you are spending. I am sure that is why my boss asked me.

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    SWells

    You want a quantifiable amount to present to the Boss to justify an amout of IT expenditure?

    I have worked with quite a few places in the past in an IT role, and I can state that from my experience, there is no such thing as a similar IT envioronment. Every place has been unique in some way, both in their need and their approach in solving that need. Obviously they all use email for example, but how they use it and more importanly how much they rely on it is always different. This would make a huge difference to your budget.

    Management has a great deal to do with IT expenditure in their willingness to adopt new technology, or simply upgrade. I am pretty lucky the CFO in my company has an understanding of the importance of IT to our business. However, I still need a 3 year plan a budget and justification for every dollar I spend.

    A percentage will hopefully be alright for your Boss, however what if your IT needs outstrip the percentage because of your companies unique needs? Say, for example, you need a box 2m x 4m but everyone else only needs 1m x 1m, why should your boss pay the extra?

    If your goal is to get funding for a future upgrade then justification is your friend, don't put too much stock in what other people are spending. Most places are willing to spend the money if they know they need it and can see an ROI. Having said that, a percentage could be a component of that justification !

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    The R00kie

    He asked me, so I wanted to answer. I think I should just let him read this entire discussion. Great input by the way. Thank you for your time.

    We are very spread out and people are moving from office to office. We continue to grow and grow. Everyone needs Office, Client/Server App, Internet, printing, scanning, email. Thats about it. We have basic needs in one sense, but it gets more complicated since we are so spread out. This makes some costs high, because many items are x18. We need to strike a balance between a infrastructure that will allow us to grow, among other things, and one we can afford.

    I think we are at the point where see the need to have a plan. In the past, we tended to be too reactionary in my opinion.
    I thought I would design a good system in conjunction with people who have more experience then myself. Present to costs and benefits. Get the money and build. I can see now I need to do a little more work than that. I agree determining ROI and coming up with a complete three year plan, taking into account all my needs over the next three years, is a better approach to this whole thing for everyone involved. What a daunting task though. I think I'll need a tech to fix the computers while I do all that. I'll keep dreaming.

    Thanks for your help,

    Dan

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    SWells

    No problems mate, happy to have been able to help :).

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    IT is a business - a service business. Ask yourself this:
    1. What level of service is expected? 24/7 vs 10 hr day vs ?
    2. What level of data security do I need to comply with HIPPA/SOX and data integrity? Since we don't know what type of "healthcare" inductry you are in only you can answer that.
    3. What does my SLA require to sustain enterprise goals and objective?
    If yoy can address these three basic questions first then you will have the foundation for your budget. I have 20 years of IT budget experience at the Mgr & Dir level. No two business models are alike so there are no 'magic' formulas. As a general rule one can expect to spend between 1.5% to 2.5% of gross sales and if you have the in-house resources deliver on-time and under budget. I usually tried to limit my use of consultants to less than 10% of my capital budget. Expenses are a cost. Capital expenses are depreciable usually over 5 years. For capital projects requiring enterprise upgrades I prioritized by those that contribute the most amount to the bottom line and worked backword. It keeps the big producers happy and producing and the business healthy as well as keeping the complainers at bay. The least producers tend to whine and pint the blame finger but when challenged by the fact that the money flows to those who make money you can better defend your decisions. This overall approach has worked for me but as I said every business is deffernet and there are no hard, fast rules save one - satisfy your customer's needs!!!

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    The R00kie

    Thank you for input. That is really good advice.

    "For capital projects requiring enterprise upgrades I prioritized by those that contribute the most amount to the bottom line and worked backword. It keeps the big producers happy and producing and the business healthy as well as keeping the complainers at bay. The least producers tend to whine and pint the blame finger but when challenged by the fact that the money flows to those who make money you can better defend your decisions."

    That should be printed in a book somewhere.

    Thanks,

    Dan

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    baljeet.asthana

    Hi Dan,

    I am working for a charity and we also have offices spread across the country.Our main concern was sharing of data and information with all our employees.Instead of going for Physical connectivity we opted for a web based system which can be accessed by people from anywhere.Of course the connectivity is secured using SSL VPN.
    Regarding you Budget requirements,I think you can budget for a lease line for your office with a server which can act as a web server,wherin you can host your applications.
    Broadband connectivity for location offices.
    SSL VPN .
    You should have atleast 5 staff members who take care of the IT.
    Since you do not develop any software inhouse,you need to budget for software development and the AMC for the software.
    I hope the locations have good computers,if not then you will have to budget for that.
    In case you do not have any email server ,you can budget for mailing software.
    You will also have to have a proper server room which will have all the server and appliances.the room need to be airconditioned and need to have smoke detectors and stuff like that.

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    killianj

    Gartner and Forrester perform research on various industries. For example, annually, Gartner reports about IT spned in the healthcare provider space.

    This is of interest to me, as my organization is a heathcare insurance provider, and we want to see where we stack up against our peers...before the insurance regulators step in to tell us what we should be doing differently.

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    sisente

    One of the first things to consider is the age of your current equipment. Most desktops run on a three year life cycle and most servers will run five to seven years.

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    mmolinaro

    I was an IT Director and ISO for a medium size Health care company for 9 years ($55mil). I'll take a guess you directly report to the CFO. If this is the case; what type of CFO is he/she - one that actually enables IT to assist the business practice or simply see's your group as a break/fix tactical and non strategic entity of the organization? I ask this because it's important as 95% of the CFO's $300mil and under see IT as only a break/fix non strategic entity and will string you along and really never make consistent and concrete decisions - to a tactical CFO delay is their best reporting friend but will eventually break their bank regardless.

    At this time I'm VP of Operations of a SW company and can assist you whenever you require it.
    201-270-5903
    mmolinaro@groundtravel.com

    Being asked to create a budget in health care for IT is a double edged sword. After you make it, and it will be comprehensive over several years, the lunacy of arguing it will begin by the Cxx's because the Cxx's really won'understand how it applies to their business. All they'll see at that point are numbers on a page and no value.

    Since you have no CIO beware of how you construct and present it. It's best to start with business questions posed directly to the COO, CEO, CMO and CFO. These questions I can assist you with in detail if you wish.

    This is important you; you need to have a vision of how you wish to manage the technology into the future. Then you need to ask business saavy questions that you can tie this vision to answers and solve questions and problems your Cxx people provide to you.

    Then you need to have them determine the relevance and priority. In this manner their after arguments are negated or miinimized as they provided the answers themselves and all you did was present a budgetary solution. You in effect become a benevalent despote as they argue themselves and it removes you as a target of angst over the numbers presented.

    Your budget will most likely be broken into two categories:
    1.) Capitol
    2.) Operating

    Health care organizations under 300Mil generally never run a top down budget process. If you contact me I can explain that in detail. Top down is much better but health care Cxx's just simply don't get it as the industry is biased. fish looking into fish bowl issue at work here.

    Your operating budget is composed of things you need to do business:
    1.) office supplies
    2.) Hardware service and support plans
    3.) Yearly salaries and benefits
    4.) publications
    5.) travel and expenses
    6.) Training and education
    7.) T-1, Broadband costs
    8.) Telephony charges for IT
    9.) Telephone manitenance and support
    7.) etc...

    Your capitol budget is composed of things such as:
    1.) New technology initiatives(projects)
    2.) new HW purchases
    3.) new SW purchases
    4.) new PC's

    Your challenge is to design a 3 to 5 year strategic technology budget tied to their Cxx's business plan - odds are you CEO and CFO don't have a business plan and any budgets were only looking out up to 12 months. If this is the case - by definition you have a tactical break fix Cxx team. all their redierict in the world can't change their actions. tHis only for you to note so you understand their pysch makeup moving forward.

    therefore your operating budget should be of 12 month duration and try to get them to realize their answers of the questions you asked so you can consrtuct a 3 year technology to business capitol budget - strategy - by spreading out a capitol spend over 3 to 5 years the cost will be much more palitable and you can now "plan" what you'll do and that will translate to a more motivated IT staff.

    Consistency and planning make for content and calm staff.

    The Cxx must abide by the plan (they can't change by wim , again this classifies them as tactical) adjust things and be flexible as issues change but the only items the Cxx change are dates and times - not content as the IT content is your domain as you are the expert not them. They get to determine:
    1.) priority
    2.) importantance
    3.) timeline

    you determine:
    1.) technology design
    2.) scope of work
    3.) conduct and implementation of project
    4.) standardized technology base

    if they micro manage you that means they don't trust you and you need to reconcile that seperately of the budget.

    I have nmany more practical ways of doing this. It all comes down to teh Cxx's you deal with. If they are leaderless, wishy -washy, tactical, non-strategic thinkers you will need to build a budget based on what their expectations for the business are. Expect their ideas and goals to change weekly and plan for that

    if they are strategic by nature - that is awesome and you should be able to work most productively to create a real busget and strategy that really does save time and effort - in essence you become part of the business management team.

    let me know if any or all ofthis was helpful

    power point is your friend

    good luck

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    The R00kie

    This was very helpful. I need some more time to digest this before I respond properly.

    My Cxx's are strategic, but weary about spending to much on technology. People are always trying to sell them on something, so I can understand the mindset. I am same way.

    Dan

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    JamesRL

    To do the math.

    The Gartner group do survey companies on IT spending, and they would be able to give you information based on the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

    What you wont get is something down the level of granularity that you want - comparing yours to another of your size. Be careful here - every company is different. You could compare yourself to another company in the same field and with the same number of employees, but if they have fewer locations, certain costs would be lower. The best you can really hope for is a range - if you know that companies in your SIC code spend between 3-5% of their total revenue on IT, and you spend 4.5, and you know you have extraordinary costs for ....networking, then thats a pretty good benchmark.

    As for staffing, thats more difficult. Some companies emphasize resolving the call from the help desk and remote support, and staff up their help desk. Others rely more on desktop support techs at the desktop - one isn't right and the other wrong, its just different.

    I did do this at a previous firm, and we had some challenges. Just determing what our "revenue" was had its challenges - ask your controller, its not always as simple as whats in the annual report. I found my company didn't fit neatly into one SIC code, so I blended two. And I had a year subsription to Gartner so they were helpful.

    James

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    The R00kie

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I will look into this Gartner Group.

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    Why Me Worry?

    Gartner is one of the most biased and unrealistic companies to exist in this industry. They will come in and over-exagerate your costs, telling you that you need to allocate 50% to 80% more money to the IT budget than what you realistically need to operate.

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    The R00kie

    Your complaining because they tried to get you alot of money to operate?

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    JamesRL

    Cause I have. And I poured over it for hours, worked with my CFO, made sure we did a valid comparison.

    And guess what. We were spending below average, but not a huge amount below, a fraction of a percent. For our company we spend about 4.5% of revenue on IT, and other similar companies in our industry averaged 5%.

    I've worked for a polling firm and know a fair amount of survey methodoligies and from my perspective, their method was sound.

    And I would not disagree that they are too expensive. And they don't share my perspective on a lot of IT issues. But in this case they were spot on.


    James

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    The R00kie

    I just found out about them. I got the impression from the site they were expensive and might not be for a business our size. I am going to look into it further. Good to know that their methodologies are sound though.

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    JamesRL

    I was a subscriber to them, which meant I got unlimited access to their publications and time with their analysts.

    But you can just buy an individual publication. The costs range from the low thousands on up. the spending survey is pretty big, I would bet it is one of the more expensive items.

    James

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    hammaren

    Gartner try to convince people they play in the SMB market but fuggetaboutit. Last time a friend worked for them they billed out at something like $7500 a day, and that was years ago. What you need is anecdotal info from people who play in that market. Our company does outsourcing in SMB. Our largest client is a bit bigger, but same number of locations from VA to MA, but mostly NJ. About five major apps, and very little programming in-house by us, and no IT people of their own. 10 servers, Exchange, Citrix, all supported by VPN to every site. We have two people essentially full-time plus a partner who manages them and bills about half-time there. Although these are estimates, I would say hardware and software expenditures are about $200K / year and our costs are about 1.5 to twice what employees would cost, but I have never seen a company with employees doing IT that were that productive, since we account for every task in our invoices.

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    The R00kie

    If we had that much to spend, we would not need their advice.

    When you say hardware and software, does that include T1s, phones lines, phone system, etc. or just the PCs, servers, and networking equipment?

    I am very productive and I am not a contractor. Do you pay as much attention to detail as in house would? Do you do those tasks that you just can't bill for because they don't fit into any category? Thats the problem I had when I was an outside contractor. I like it much better working in house now. As I get more experience though I may go back to that.


    Thank you for the input. We are near that number as well.

    Dan

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    IT-Fulano

    The budget for government sponsored/operated hospitals is generally public information. Get a few of these and compare with your operations. Govt operations are also usually bear-bones operations so you might get a more realistic figure. IMHO

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    The R00kie

    Thanks. I'll look into that.

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    jdmercha

    I would charge you about $200k per year. This would include the cost of equipment and basic software as well as salaries.

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    The R00kie

    So to set up servers and other services, would be like 200k plus or minus 50k depending on what features we want I am sure. And then like 200k each year to maintain it?

    Sounds about right. With telecommunication bills and other expenses that would be like 500k or 2% of revenues.

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    drowningnotwaving

    Took me two phone calls to friends who are in your industry to find out. Yes, that is 2.5 mil per year including headcount, hardware, apps and infrastructure.

    Some company provides the application software you use. Call that company. Ask for help. They will tell you an outrageous number. Use your judgement to adjust their response accordingly.

    If you are not using application software in your company, you need to go get a job that you understand.

    In fact, go speak to your CFO or Financial Controller. The business premise of this question is way over your head, from the sounds of your first note. If you want to answer your boss properly then go to these people and ask for help.

    Plus what country are you in? If a medical practice with 150 employees and 20 locations makes it the biggest there is, you must be in the Antarctic.

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    The R00kie

    We spend no where near that much. Nor would we ever.
    Of course we are using application software.
    We indeed are the largest private practice of this type in the United States, could be in the world for that matter.

    "If you are not using application software in your company, you need to go get a job that you understand."
    I have no idea what that means, but whatever.

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    AV .

    If I were you, I would interview several system integrators that specialize in the healthcare industry and ask each of them what they can do to improve your network. Choose the one that you think has the resources to accomplish and support your future goals. Get a detailed system analysis of how they can improve your network. The most important thing is to have a good business relationship with your integrator and acceptance of the plan from your management. That is key.

    I am in IT at a business of the same size - 140 people - but its a law firm. There are 2 IT people and a system integrator. There are 5 offices. We do remote support, but absolutely there is not enough in-house people because of the constant demand for technology. The system integrator is only used for major upgrades.

    I think you shouldn't totally base your IT budget on how much revenue your company has, it should be based on how your company can become more competitive or innovative. Maybe you might initially spend more to put the infrastructure in place, but the costs will go down after that because you just have to maintain it.

    I refer to different trade journals for the legal industry to see what other law firms are doing. I'm sure there are good trade journals for the healthcare industry that offer the same kind of information.

    There are no databases with information about what companies spend on technology because it all depends on how much of a committment a company will make to technology. It all depends on the management.

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    The R00kie

    Very good, sound advice. Thank you.
    I have 2 different companies I am working with at the moment. I should have some designs in a month or so. I am finding that I am not very skilled as of yet at defining and communicating the benefits to management. As I see the design come together hopefully that will become clearer.

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    AV .

    Well, Dan, getting the budget approved by management is the hard part. The companies you hire should be able to give you some justification for the expenditures, aside from your opinions. Its always important to spend time meeting with people from the different departments in your company. Their needs and problems will provide you with a good justification as well as support for your projects when you present your ideas to management.

    Make sure you build in more money than what you intend to spend (for the unforseen). That way, you're sure to stay within your budget or even spend less, making you look real good to management.

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    haridas53

    We should not try to fix the budget before arriving at an optimum solution. We can phase out the development and implementation in such a way to suit the company's financial conditions. The important factor is that the foundation of the solution should cater for both the present and future expansion plan of the company. Basically "Plan for total requirement and implement in as per priority and reurn of benefits"

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    existis

    This could be a function of your company's budget. In other words, the spending for IT could be anywhere between a 5% and a 12% of the annual corporate budget. You should set up your limits based on the ROI and other justifications. If your IT expenses are close to 50% of your annual budget then you can start looking for ways to shave expenses to increase your profitability. Do your calculations and deterrmine your %.

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    AV .

    You can't create a budget before you really know the costs and details of what it will take to implement projects. Projects can be implemented by priority or over a longer period of time if a company's financial condition warrants it. Of course, any project should have a long-term return on investment.

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    The R00kie

    Thank you for the insight all.

    Identify what you want. Determine costs. Compromise and then compromise some more.
    I am sure it will go something like that.

    Definitely a good idea to speak to as many possible. I think I already know what they need but I bet I'm wrong.

    Dan

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    jhurford

    I did some review of analyst reports a couple years ago. Industries hovered around 5% of gross revenue. Government agencies (more regulation, no profit) were closer to 7%. That's off the top of my head, but will find those analyses.

    Of course, 5% is steady state. If you were significantly above or below in prior years, you should trend the opposite direction this year. This implies $1.25M IT Budget for your $25M company.

    FYI. The target for IT security is 5% of IT budget. Results may vary depending on how fast you are trying to implement something.

    Lastly, Gartner does an annual it spending report broken down by industry and size.

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    SWells

    What is the use of saying that we must use some% of our revenue for IT? You have to spend what you need to spend to get the level of technology you require. The obvious word here is REQUIRE.

    Personally I would be working out a plan of exactly what I want to do over the next 3 years and where I want the company to be IT wise. Then and only then can you work out a budget. Remember that the initial installation/upgrade phase is always more expensive, licenses etc. Once implimented then your budget changes to a maintenace role which is different again.

    What I am tryning to say is, you have to spend what you and your company have determined is what you can spend dependent on ROI and the reliance on technology in your company. I have setup a few systems using "front desk", a basic client MSSQL backend type of app, in a couple of small practices here in Australia. One didn't want to spend the money on the internet technology and the other one did. Which one do you think runs better? The first one runs really slow and un-reliably because the infrastructure is not good enough, all because they didn't budget for it. First thing I did when I went in was to spend a lot of cash fixing this infrastructure.

    Work out what you need to do over the next 3 years then work out how much it will cost.

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    smithks

    I agree with SWells. I work for a commercial construction company, ~$200M per year, ~400 employees. I am the only one in the IT Department. I spend less than .25% of revenue maintaining IT. but I have spent more than that building it up and if we have special needs that creep up, it requires more.
    The budget should be based on the need, which will obviously be more during growing/building years than maintenance years.
    Put a plan together of where you want to go, get buy-in, then budget for it.

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    The R00kie

    The percentage just lets you know where you are in relation to others in your industry. Who hopefully have similar IT needs, at least in a general sense. When I determine the costs for my design it may help rule out what has to go and serve as parameter to stay within, no?
    I guess it gives you some level of reassurance about what you are spending. I am sure that is why my boss asked me.

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    SWells

    You want a quantifiable amount to present to the Boss to justify an amout of IT expenditure?

    I have worked with quite a few places in the past in an IT role, and I can state that from my experience, there is no such thing as a similar IT envioronment. Every place has been unique in some way, both in their need and their approach in solving that need. Obviously they all use email for example, but how they use it and more importanly how much they rely on it is always different. This would make a huge difference to your budget.

    Management has a great deal to do with IT expenditure in their willingness to adopt new technology, or simply upgrade. I am pretty lucky the CFO in my company has an understanding of the importance of IT to our business. However, I still need a 3 year plan a budget and justification for every dollar I spend.

    A percentage will hopefully be alright for your Boss, however what if your IT needs outstrip the percentage because of your companies unique needs? Say, for example, you need a box 2m x 4m but everyone else only needs 1m x 1m, why should your boss pay the extra?

    If your goal is to get funding for a future upgrade then justification is your friend, don't put too much stock in what other people are spending. Most places are willing to spend the money if they know they need it and can see an ROI. Having said that, a percentage could be a component of that justification !

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    The R00kie

    He asked me, so I wanted to answer. I think I should just let him read this entire discussion. Great input by the way. Thank you for your time.

    We are very spread out and people are moving from office to office. We continue to grow and grow. Everyone needs Office, Client/Server App, Internet, printing, scanning, email. Thats about it. We have basic needs in one sense, but it gets more complicated since we are so spread out. This makes some costs high, because many items are x18. We need to strike a balance between a infrastructure that will allow us to grow, among other things, and one we can afford.

    I think we are at the point where see the need to have a plan. In the past, we tended to be too reactionary in my opinion.
    I thought I would design a good system in conjunction with people who have more experience then myself. Present to costs and benefits. Get the money and build. I can see now I need to do a little more work than that. I agree determining ROI and coming up with a complete three year plan, taking into account all my needs over the next three years, is a better approach to this whole thing for everyone involved. What a daunting task though. I think I'll need a tech to fix the computers while I do all that. I'll keep dreaming.

    Thanks for your help,

    Dan

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    SWells

    No problems mate, happy to have been able to help :).

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    IT is a business - a service business. Ask yourself this:
    1. What level of service is expected? 24/7 vs 10 hr day vs ?
    2. What level of data security do I need to comply with HIPPA/SOX and data integrity? Since we don't know what type of "healthcare" inductry you are in only you can answer that.
    3. What does my SLA require to sustain enterprise goals and objective?
    If yoy can address these three basic questions first then you will have the foundation for your budget. I have 20 years of IT budget experience at the Mgr & Dir level. No two business models are alike so there are no 'magic' formulas. As a general rule one can expect to spend between 1.5% to 2.5% of gross sales and if you have the in-house resources deliver on-time and under budget. I usually tried to limit my use of consultants to less than 10% of my capital budget. Expenses are a cost. Capital expenses are depreciable usually over 5 years. For capital projects requiring enterprise upgrades I prioritized by those that contribute the most amount to the bottom line and worked backword. It keeps the big producers happy and producing and the business healthy as well as keeping the complainers at bay. The least producers tend to whine and pint the blame finger but when challenged by the fact that the money flows to those who make money you can better defend your decisions. This overall approach has worked for me but as I said every business is deffernet and there are no hard, fast rules save one - satisfy your customer's needs!!!

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    The R00kie

    Thank you for input. That is really good advice.

    "For capital projects requiring enterprise upgrades I prioritized by those that contribute the most amount to the bottom line and worked backword. It keeps the big producers happy and producing and the business healthy as well as keeping the complainers at bay. The least producers tend to whine and pint the blame finger but when challenged by the fact that the money flows to those who make money you can better defend your decisions."

    That should be printed in a book somewhere.

    Thanks,

    Dan

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    baljeet.asthana

    Hi Dan,

    I am working for a charity and we also have offices spread across the country.Our main concern was sharing of data and information with all our employees.Instead of going for Physical connectivity we opted for a web based system which can be accessed by people from anywhere.Of course the connectivity is secured using SSL VPN.
    Regarding you Budget requirements,I think you can budget for a lease line for your office with a server which can act as a web server,wherin you can host your applications.
    Broadband connectivity for location offices.
    SSL VPN .
    You should have atleast 5 staff members who take care of the IT.
    Since you do not develop any software inhouse,you need to budget for software development and the AMC for the software.
    I hope the locations have good computers,if not then you will have to budget for that.
    In case you do not have any email server ,you can budget for mailing software.
    You will also have to have a proper server room which will have all the server and appliances.the room need to be airconditioned and need to have smoke detectors and stuff like that.

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    killianj

    Gartner and Forrester perform research on various industries. For example, annually, Gartner reports about IT spned in the healthcare provider space.

    This is of interest to me, as my organization is a heathcare insurance provider, and we want to see where we stack up against our peers...before the insurance regulators step in to tell us what we should be doing differently.

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    sisente

    One of the first things to consider is the age of your current equipment. Most desktops run on a three year life cycle and most servers will run five to seven years.

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    mmolinaro

    I was an IT Director and ISO for a medium size Health care company for 9 years ($55mil). I'll take a guess you directly report to the CFO. If this is the case; what type of CFO is he/she - one that actually enables IT to assist the business practice or simply see's your group as a break/fix tactical and non strategic entity of the organization? I ask this because it's important as 95% of the CFO's $300mil and under see IT as only a break/fix non strategic entity and will string you along and really never make consistent and concrete decisions - to a tactical CFO delay is their best reporting friend but will eventually break their bank regardless.

    At this time I'm VP of Operations of a SW company and can assist you whenever you require it.
    201-270-5903
    mmolinaro@groundtravel.com

    Being asked to create a budget in health care for IT is a double edged sword. After you make it, and it will be comprehensive over several years, the lunacy of arguing it will begin by the Cxx's because the Cxx's really won'understand how it applies to their business. All they'll see at that point are numbers on a page and no value.

    Since you have no CIO beware of how you construct and present it. It's best to start with business questions posed directly to the COO, CEO, CMO and CFO. These questions I can assist you with in detail if you wish.

    This is important you; you need to have a vision of how you wish to manage the technology into the future. Then you need to ask business saavy questions that you can tie this vision to answers and solve questions and problems your Cxx people provide to you.

    Then you need to have them determine the relevance and priority. In this manner their after arguments are negated or miinimized as they provided the answers themselves and all you did was present a budgetary solution. You in effect become a benevalent despote as they argue themselves and it removes you as a target of angst over the numbers presented.

    Your budget will most likely be broken into two categories:
    1.) Capitol
    2.) Operating

    Health care organizations under 300Mil generally never run a top down budget process. If you contact me I can explain that in detail. Top down is much better but health care Cxx's just simply don't get it as the industry is biased. fish looking into fish bowl issue at work here.

    Your operating budget is composed of things you need to do business:
    1.) office supplies
    2.) Hardware service and support plans
    3.) Yearly salaries and benefits
    4.) publications
    5.) travel and expenses
    6.) Training and education
    7.) T-1, Broadband costs
    8.) Telephony charges for IT
    9.) Telephone manitenance and support
    7.) etc...

    Your capitol budget is composed of things such as:
    1.) New technology initiatives(projects)
    2.) new HW purchases
    3.) new SW purchases
    4.) new PC's

    Your challenge is to design a 3 to 5 year strategic technology budget tied to their Cxx's business plan - odds are you CEO and CFO don't have a business plan and any budgets were only looking out up to 12 months. If this is the case - by definition you have a tactical break fix Cxx team. all their redierict in the world can't change their actions. tHis only for you to note so you understand their pysch makeup moving forward.

    therefore your operating budget should be of 12 month duration and try to get them to realize their answers of the questions you asked so you can consrtuct a 3 year technology to business capitol budget - strategy - by spreading out a capitol spend over 3 to 5 years the cost will be much more palitable and you can now "plan" what you'll do and that will translate to a more motivated IT staff.

    Consistency and planning make for content and calm staff.

    The Cxx must abide by the plan (they can't change by wim , again this classifies them as tactical) adjust things and be flexible as issues change but the only items the Cxx change are dates and times - not content as the IT content is your domain as you are the expert not them. They get to determine:
    1.) priority
    2.) importantance
    3.) timeline

    you determine:
    1.) technology design
    2.) scope of work
    3.) conduct and implementation of project
    4.) standardized technology base

    if they micro manage you that means they don't trust you and you need to reconcile that seperately of the budget.

    I have nmany more practical ways of doing this. It all comes down to teh Cxx's you deal with. If they are leaderless, wishy -washy, tactical, non-strategic thinkers you will need to build a budget based on what their expectations for the business are. Expect their ideas and goals to change weekly and plan for that

    if they are strategic by nature - that is awesome and you should be able to work most productively to create a real busget and strategy that really does save time and effort - in essence you become part of the business management team.

    let me know if any or all ofthis was helpful

    power point is your friend

    good luck

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    The R00kie

    This was very helpful. I need some more time to digest this before I respond properly.

    My Cxx's are strategic, but weary about spending to much on technology. People are always trying to sell them on something, so I can understand the mindset. I am same way.

    Dan