Better IT does not necessarily involve new investment, so stop complaining about budget constraints, says the Naked CIO.

Boo hoo. The news suggests that UK technology is set for another tight year of budget constraints, cost cutting and frugal behaviour. Cry me a river.

Truth is, for years I have seen IT operations wasting millions on misdirected projects and technology with no business justification. I’ve seen IT people use poor communication and secretive jargon to confuse executives and procure IT investments with no rational business value.

Am I wrong? Some of you may think I am wide of the mark. But our overriding issue isn’t funding. It is our ability to align spend with real, pragmatic and measurable return on investment. If you can demonstrate an investment will make money, you will get money.

Furthermore, innovation is not necessarily costly. In most cases there are many projects and initiatives that can be done to improve business operations without big ticket spend and sometimes with no investment other than the labour required to put something in place.

I have recently conducted a business process mapping exercise to address all levels of user interaction in our company. The results of this analysis were astonishing. We can save between 12 and 15 per cent of our total labour spend through small but targeted process automation. I can do this with existing resources, which will provide me with the credibility when I then ask for investment for further business benefits.

I am advocating greater productivity not reduced headcount. We have all been through enough downsizing for one decade.

My staff complain to me that they would like more investment. But from my view there are so many things to address first, which can be accomplished without spending. If I recognise an opportunity to spend where the return provides a significant business case, I will go to great lengths to get approval for additional funds. But I cannot support spending for the sake of spending, especially when there are things that can be achieved without it.

We continue to have a hard time communicating value propositions to our business colleagues. I see it in my team, in my colleagues and in the sector as a whole. Improving our messages and refining our vision is critical to securing the commitment of our business and the funds that follow.

money coins in hand

Don’t spend for the sake of spending, says the Naked CIO
(Photo credit: Rene Ehrhardt via Flickr under the following Creative Commons licence

I recently sat on a panel to search for an informatics professor for a leading business school. They wanted to bolster the awareness of technology to students pursuing a business career – something I entirely support. After all, breaking down yesterday’s barriers starts with tomorrow’s leaders and they are the ones who will resolve the stigma relating to technology and business.

One of the candidates did a presentation to the panel in such a way that none of the business professors understood a word he had said. It came down to knowing your audience and delivering to it. This individual didn’t. What’s worse, he was completely unaware he had missed the mark.

Two lessons. First, let’s not moan about what we don’t have. Instead, let’s turn heads with what we can do with what we have.

Secondly, when arguing for your budget or to evangelise an initiative, spend more time clarifying the message to be delivered to the right people and less on glorifying technology that – let’s face it – our audience could not care less about.