Securing your IT budget - the skills to get the bills

IT managers need to cut out complexity and up the fear factor when it comes to arm wrestling for money to keep their IT shops alive and healthy, according to VicRoads CIO John McNally.

With one of Victoria's more diverse IT shops and more than a million customers, McNally says the road and transport authority's IT department is always acutely aware of complexity tolerance levels for those that sign his cheques.

"It [involves creating] understanding about what the hell some of this stuff means to people who are not familiar, comfortable or interested in moving to Windows XP or implementing a Z390 operating system on your host where you process your [vehicle] registrations," McNally said. Any IT message must be clear and candid, he said.

When it comes to putting the case for money, McNally likens VicRoads' enterprise networks to road infrastructure.

"In our road network, which I liken to keeping systems and business applications up to date, we accept we will maintain the surface of the road by doing something to it every 10 years. We [invest] because we know historically if you don't do it, things fall to bits. It's the same with technology; if you don't do it you will end up in the position where it will cost you an absolute arm and a leg to get out of it," McNally said.

McNally maintains that sometimes CIOs will need to validate their positions with input from people outside their organizations to win spending approval.

"The prophet of doom from inside is a broken record. It's [about clear] language and getting the prophet from outside. We go for people we have established a rapport with over time, but who know their stuff and can stand in front of an audience [of executives] and say what is happening in the industry. People who can say what the risk is - and what the losses can be if you don't do something," he said.

Gartner's chief of research for Asia Pacific John Roberts warned one budgeting pitfall for IT managers remained in calculating IT lifecycle costs. Roberts said many organisations still underestimate how costs will accrue over time, especially in application enhancements and product support.

"There is scant attention paid to lifecycle costs," he said, adding that there frequently seems to be an attitude of 'let the future look after itself'.

"Don't underestimate what the costs will be; sort out what will be capital [investment]," Roberts said.

He added that another persistent irritation for bean counters is the lack of transparency in software licensing, especially support costs, enhancements and upgrades.

"Licence fees at the desktop level are still causing a lot of concern, especially proprietary software, without naming any names. That’s one of the reasons that Linux is still [arousing] so much interest at the moment. It's when [the costs] come out of the woodwork that people start looking at lifecycle management and use," Roberts said.

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