It’s budget time. On one side of the table, you have the bean counters whose job is to control costs. On the other side, you have the department managers whose job is to provide their teams with the tools and resources they need to grow revenue. At the head of the table, you have the person whose job it is to walk the tightrope between the two sides and make the final budget decisions.

The IT budget in particular tends to be an annual source of stress. Technology is always changing. New services and capabilities are always being introduced. If you make the right investments, you’ll make both sides of the table happy by improving efficiency and productivity. Make the wrong investments and IT will be a complex money pit that fails to produce ROI. This is why careful IT budgeting and planning are so important.

Technology has evolved from a collection of equipment that can reduce costs to a strategic asset capable of delivering measurable business value. Yet 80 percent of IT budgets are devoted to costs that do little more than keep the lights on, while only 20 percent goes toward strategic initiatives that build revenue and create competitive advantages. The only way to reverse those numbers is by making sure your IT environment is aligned with business processes and goals.

Unfortunately, many small-to-midsize businesses aren’t sure how to connect the dots. Instead of approaching the IT budget strategically, they’ll base the IT budget on an arbitrary dollar figure or percentage of operating expenses. Effective, reliable IT budgeting and planning requires significant research, analysis and discussion.

This process begins with gaining a better understanding of what business needs are and are not being met by existing technology. It’s important to take inventory of all hardware, software, subscriptions, licenses and personnel, and focus not only on current business requirements but your needs five years from now.

What IT tools, services and functionality can improve the performance of individuals and the organization as a whole? What technology is reaching the end of its lifecycle? What are the costs of purchasing, installing and maintaining new hardware and/or software? Can this technology be integrated with your existing IT infrastructure, or will upgrades be required?

Is now the time to transition certain tools and services to the cloud? What investments are required to make your IT environment cloud-ready?

Most importantly, how are you going to support your IT environment? Are you able to manage and maintain your IT tools and services in-house, or would you be better served by shifting some or all of these responsibilities to a managed services provider?

By answering these and other questions, you can make better decisions, reduce risk and complexity, build a more efficient and stable IT infrastructure, and maximize ROI. SSD Technology Partners helps organizations navigate the IT budgeting and planning process and provides managed services that make it possible to optimize and protect your IT investments. Let us work with you to develop a predictable, reliable IT budget that is aligned with your short-term and long-term business needs and objectives.