Talking about money doesn’t sound like a good time for most people, particularly when you’re talking about asking for money from your supervisors. In a recent article, TechRepublic’s Bob Artner explained how to make sure what you say in budget talks is what your budget committee hears. Based on the mail we got in response to this article, negotiating for dollars is a familiar task for TechRepublic members. Read on to see how these IT veterans get the money they need and how they prove they need it.

Strategy is everything
TechRepublic member C.J.M. suggests these other angles for winning the budget war:

  • “Point out the service(s) that clients will not be able to receive unless a certain item/project is funded.
  • “Always let your board know when technological equipment fails. Even if it seems like micromanaging or whining, let the board know what service has stopped because the equipment stopped. Some boards think equipment should last seven to 10 years when computers have an average age of three years. If you get five years out of them, you are fortunate. Then replacement costs do not seem so out of proportion.
  • “Pad the budget 20 percent, and then pad an extra 20 percent. Boards feel good when they can cut $20,000. Then you are at the level you felt was basic for the budget to begin with, and you are at the level you wanted for the year anyway.”

John adds these tips about how you can use personal contacts to increase your chances of getting a favorable nod from the budget committee.

  • “Never underestimate the value of meeting budget committee members in a social setting. If possible, invite one or two members to dinner, well away from the work place. Work your way through the entire committee, and never leave anyone out. Space this effort over a two-month period to manage the cost; you will get it back when your own pay review comes up.
  • “Find out what each committee member’s pet hate and love is in regard to the company. Once you find a common thread of what’s in and out, tailor your pitch to hit those areas, and then heads will nod more than shake.”

Rally the troops
Wes W., an IT consultant with Hewlett-Packard, suggested that one important avenue for gaining the support of management for budget proposals is to get grass roots support for proposed projects.

“If the managers are hearing the need for a new program or technology from the engineers and the IT department includes a budget item for the same, you have better chances to gain approval. Of course, getting this support may also mean you get the feedback you need to improve your project deliverable.”

Curtis M. suggests the same tactic, but his focus is on support from a different camp.

“One of the best techniques I have found is to identify those members of the budget approval committee who have a vested interest in my major projects and consult with them individually in advance to know what points to push and what hot spots to avoid. It not only helps me be better prepared, but it also positions an internal champion for me.”

There’s no ”i” in “team”
Harvey N. reminds us that words count, especially when you’re talking about money and getting more of it.

“Don’t say ‘I need’, or ‘my department needs,’ or ‘my staff needs.’ Say, ‘the school needs,’ or ‘the business will benefit by,’ or ‘you will get in return,’ etc.”

Be thrifty and document the benefits of your purchases
Larry S. said that the most important lesson he learned from his first boss was “never spend budget unless necessary,” and the second lesson was to make sure management is made aware of the benefit gained from the spending.

He said that during his 40 years of managing annual IT organization budgets, he almost always came in under budget, rarely spent all the capital money, and had ample training and conference budgets.

“I made sure that the need was real and the benefit justified the expenditure before sending someone to a conference or training course, or buying that new server or software product. And I followed up with a report on the benefit gained in terms of accomplishments, objectives realized, projects completed under budget or ahead of schedule, or other tangible and quantifiable results.

“A prime example might be the crisis we averted when the power failed and that was followed by a surge that crippled half the companies in the area because we had a good uninterruptible power supply and backup system. Unless you make a point of relating the two issues, management won’t, and there will always be that doubt in their minds that any benefit was ever realized.”
It looks like you have to know your managers pretty well if you want good budget numbers. Have you tried any of the suggestions above, such as having dinner with executives or pitching your projects to them? Send us your stories of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting to know the decision makers at your company.