10 Key Questions for IT Budgeting in 2020

How well will your IT serve your organization in 2020? The first step is to budget correctly!

This post is part of our series on IT Budgeting for 2020 and covers the high-level questions to ask within your organization as you begin the budget season. Other 2020 budgeting posts cover budgeting for cybersecurity and the top five budgeting mistakes to avoid.

As you create your IT budget for 2020, start off on the right track by first discussing each of the key questions below: 

1.  Have you updated your IT roadmap to meet your 2020 needs?

As the saying goes, plan the work and work the plan. Your IT roadmap is your written guide to what, when, and how you will implement the IT solutions your organization needs to support its business goals over the next few years. If you haven’t updated your roadmap lately, now’s the time. Technology changes quickly, including cybersecurity threats.

• Is your IT budget ready for 2020? Our IT Budgeting Guide for 2020 can help – download here.
• Use our Cybersecurity Partner Interview Guide to find the right security partner for your company.

Design your roadmap so that it protects your business revenue, customer commitments, and brand integrity. Your roadmap should also be doable. If the 2020 budget you build from your roadmap is too aggressive, you may not be able to complete everything in one year, and introducing too much change too quickly can be difficult for any organization to absorb. On the other hand, if you rely on last year’s roadmap and don’t revisit your priorities, the finance department may end up giving you the same budget as last year. This may not serve your business well.

2.  Are you aware of new technology trends you can leverage in 2020?

It’s tough to budget for IT if you don’t know your options. Which IT approaches and solutions do organizations like yours use to empower their workers and generate better business results? What will it take for you to make similar improvements?

The new technologies that provide the greatest benefits are not typically plug-and-play. They will likely need to be expertly deployed and integrated into your IT environment and then managed and supported. Few things are as frustrating for an organization as spending a lot of money on fancy IT tools, then not having the expertise to use them correctly. Make sure to be aware of the latest technologies plus the related costs of ownership.

3.  Where is your current technology in its lifecycle?

Do you know all of the technology you will need to replace or upgrade in 2020? Chances are your organization has hardware and software that will need to be replaced or decommissioned and moved to the cloud. Having an accurate and continually updated inventory of your technology assets is the only way to fully understand if they’ll meet your needs in 2020. Don’t put off replacing aging equipment — technology failures tend to happen at the worst times.

Technology lifecycle planning is most effective when you use a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) that keeps an inventory of all of your assets and how they’re configured.

4.  Which older, legacy, or manual systems may hold you back in 2020?

Replacing tools and processes your organization relies on can be one of the most challenging IT decisions of all. Executive buy-in is usually required and it’s common for companies to only make major changes when the pain of not changing is no longer bearable. If your organization uses systems built a long time ago, are proprietary, or have become outdated, it means your technology could be holding you back — you might not even be fully aware of the drawbacks if you haven’t researched your options. Be aware that creative solutions may be available to help you keep what you like about your older systems while bringing your IT environment up-to-date and improving security.

Know that you’re not alone if you are in this situation. Almost every organization that’s been around for more than a few years has technology optimization problems. When budgeting for 2020, consider taking steps to tackle the most critical and antiquated systems head-on instead of waiting for an event to force a change that’s not in the budget. Also, it may take more than one year to make upgrades using an approach that doesn’t interfere with your business operations.

5.  If you’re moving some computing to the cloud, do you know the full cost?

With cloud computing, there’s the cost of the monthly service and there are the costs to migrate, integrate, and manage the cloud-based technology. Costs vary significantly, depending on the type of cloud you want to use and who will manage it. In our blog post entitled Which Cloud Is The Best For Your Business Needs?, we discuss the three main cloud categories (and their subsets) and the business problems each can solve.

Once you’ve determined your best cloud option, research the related costs and service levels — it’s best not to do it the other way around. The cheapest cloud option may not get you where you want to go and you may end up having to repeat the process in a few years. If your primary goal is to use the cloud to save money, make sure it really will.

6.  What’s your plan for dealing with the current tech talent shortage?

Competition for tech talent has never been higher, as you are probably aware, and it will continue to tighten. Nearly every organization has technology to manage. Finding, hiring, training, and retaining the IT staff you need to effectively manage your environment is a consequential business consideration that can leave you unprepared if you don’t budget accordingly. Will your best IT staff jump ship for a better offer, better technology, or a more compatible (or less overwhelming) work environment?

If you’ve looked at IT wages lately, you know they’re not what they used to be. Having the knowledge and experience to keep your technology available, secure, and working properly is a valuable skill set. Make sure your 2020 IT budget addresses your IT people, along with your tools and processes.

7.  Is your DR plan ransomware proof?

Ransomware is a serious threat. Last month, for example, a Florida town paid a $600K ransom to have its data decrypted. There are hundreds of examples of crippling ransomware attacks, from worldwide attacks like WannaCry and NonPetya to local ones you’ve never heard of. Here’s what you can expect when recovering from a ransomware attack.

If your Disaster Recovery (DR) solution has not been designed to insulate your organization from ransomware, you need to update it in 2020 (preferably now). While your current DR plan may enable you to recover quickly from a typical disaster (like a power outage, storm, or emergency in your building), recovering from ransomware is different because these attacks often encrypt backups as well. In addition, if you’re upgrading technology or moving some computing to the cloud, you’ll need to upgrade your DR plan in 2020, too. Make sure to do a risk assessment to determine your best plan of action.

8.  Based on your risk assessment, have you identified your top five issues to address in 2020?

IT risk assessments look at your organization’s operations and how it generates income and achieves its objectives. They typically include a series of questions that assess the effectiveness of your standards, guidelines, and practices and how well your organization adheres to them. Penetration tests are different — they find vulnerabilities in your systems. You need to conduct both

every year so you can develop a priority list to protect your business. Adhering to a set of cybersecurity standards, such as NIST or ISO, is the best way to go.

Once you know the top priorities to address, include them in your 2020 budget. Aiming to handle five each year is a reasonable goal for most organizations.

9.  Do you have an adviser to help you make cybersecurity decisions?

The best way to determine your cybersecurity priorities and the related costs is to consult an expert. There are security issues in every area of your organization and keeping up with the various security issues and trends (and what they cost to implement) is a full-time job. If you don’t have an experienced cybersecurity professional on staff, it’s best to work with an adviser who has helped many organizations improve their security posture. This will ensure you’re budgeting for the most important things first and doing it in a way that’s best for your unique organization.

Cybersecurity advisers will have existing plans based on standards and current technologies — including everything from tools and advanced monitoring to the most effective training for end users — that can be customized for your organization. There’s no reason to start from scratch. Balancing the security improvements you can make in 2020 with cybersecurity insurance to cover the things you can’t is usually the recommended practice.

10.  Have you identified the technology you need to support your growth plans?

If your organization plans to grow or change in 2020, your IT needs to be ready. Whether you’re going after new markets, adding capabilities, offering more or different services, changing staff, or moving forward with any type of initiative, IT needs to support your efforts so they’re successful. For example:

  • A new remote sales staff may need integrated sales apps
  • Your business may require a new or improved ERP platform or other critical business applications
  • Changes to your transportation system may require upgrading your tracking system
  • Adding new properties to your holdings (or selling existing ones) may require IT that can ramp up (and down) quickly without affecting your day-to-day business operations
  • Your staffing strategy may require a solution to accommodate contractors working from anywhere worldwide

Determining what you need to budget for IT to support business growth takes you back to the top of this question list. Your most effective 2020 IT budget will be based on your IT roadmap and fully understanding your options.

Of course, updating your IT roadmap and doing the research necessary to answer all of these questions to your best advantage requires budget allocation, too. Exploratory exercises, pilots, and testing your options will steer you away from costly mistakes and can uncover realities you may not have considered. Make sure to include R&D for IT in your 2020 budget.

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