How to follow a rolling IT budget: 5 tips

Learn how regular financial cost performance assessments, collaboration on sales forecasts, adoption of EPM systems, and more can help with IT budgeting.

budgetmoneyistock-486291022eternalcreative.jpg

Image: iStockphoto/eternalcreative

As we approach the annual budget cycle planning time, IT, CIOs, and IT team leaders alike breathe a collective sigh and wonder how they're going to get all of next year's budgeting work done and still meet deadlines on critical projects that must be completed by year-end.

There is no question about it: While budgeting for new technology presents opportunities and excitement, the drudgery and time consumption of budgeting makes few IT leaders happy.

There is no quick fix automation solution for budgeting, nor is there a way to eliminate all of the time and iterative efforts that are spent on budgets, but there is evidence that by running what is known as a rolling budget that gets regularly assessed and revisited throughout the year that the annual budgeting process can be simplified and expedited. The following tips can help with your rolling budget.

SEE: Tech budgets 2020: A CXO's guide (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

Regularly assess the financial cost performance of your IT assets 

Month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter, are you consuming more or less processing, storage, and network bandwidth? If there are variances, were the variances induced by temporary and understandable aberrations, or is there a trend emerging?

Report financial impacts on a month-to-month or quarterly basis to finance

By reporting financial impacts on a regular basis, finance has a clear understanding of cost trends in IT well in advance of any IT annual budget presentation. This should lessen the back and forth debates about funding between finance and IT over how much investment should go into IT activities and assets since everyone will be up to speed on IT cost performance before annual budget discussions.

Collaborate with finance and others on company market and sales forecasts throughout the year

If you are in a cyclical industry like semiconductors, the profit and loss picture can change overnight. Responding to these changes might mean that you have to ratchet your IT budget up or down on short notice. By using a monthly or quarterly budget reporting and monitoring approach with rolling forecasts, everyone in the company is on top of market conditions. 

You also have the ability to use what-if modeling and other techniques that show how your IT budget will perform if you have to ratchet your IT investment levels up or down, and what the likely outcomes will be. This gives you the information you need to adjust your budgets upward or downward. It also enables you to communicate what the IT performance outcomes are likely to be to your internal user managers in advance.

Involve your entire IT team

The team members with their eyes and ears close to the ground are usually the first to see a cost or performance spike, or a decrease in IT asset utilization. As an example, a computer operations supervisor is likely to see that nightly batch processing windows are lengthening and might require additional processing or storage, or that certain disk drives are failing and need replacement; however, his or her senior manager (who seldom sets foot in the data center) might not know this.

If you are trying to assess and/or predict the performance of your technology, it is best to get those most closely connected to the resources engaged and invested. This also helps to assure success in the execution of a rolling budget plan because everyone is engaged, so everyone feels ownership.

Consider using an EPM system

A majority of organizations still monitor and develop their budgets with spreadsheets, but there are enterprise performance management (EPM) systems that can automate much of the budget planning, tracking, and simulation processes and that can engage everyone (IT, finance, etc.) in a collaborative effort. You should consider adopting an EPM system

Also see