You can't always get what you want

So IT has to justify its requirements and live within budgetary constraints the same as everyone else! What a surprise (CW, March 8 Page 1).

As an ex IT manager, I am tired of hearing how hard IT has it compared to the rest of the business. We all have to operate within limits and we all have to be able to justify what we do.

At the end of the day, IT departments exist (along with all other areas of an organisation) to ensure that the business requirements are delivered in the best and most cost-effective way possible - and within budget limitations. We would all love to progress much more quickly than we do, to have more resources, to run more projects, to deliver more systems and so on. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day, dollars to spend and people to do it.

The trick is to make the most of what you have and to be able to support your requirements with a sound business case.

IT budgets are typically going to be made up of a number of key elements, some unique to IT and some common to any department such as: core systems operations. IT needs to determine what current and future capacity is required for lights-on, and what contingency to allow.

Technology enhancements: Making sure that ageing legacy hardware and software is not the only thing running! Some provision for change is needed. It is up to IT to determine how much and to be able to justify it.

Security: spend may depend on your industry and activities, but no reputable organisation can do without.

Business projects: it's really up to the business units to decide how much they can afford here, but IT has to assist them in the process. These need to be looked at quite separately from other operational spend.

Legislative requirements: There's always something to allow for here.

General expenses: same rules apply for IT as any other department.

Staff costs: governed by all of the above requirements, plus training and development costs, market forces and so on.

If the overall cost of all of these and any other relevant items is considered too high, then senior management needs to agree where to compromise. For the most part, this should probably be on project work, but each such decision will have unique influencers. A good senior management team should be able to assess this sensibly. A good CIO should be able to make the issues clear enough to make a sensible decision. Most senior managers are not going to make decisions that will seriously compromise their business, operations and productivity. To quote the Stones: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find you get what you need."

Grant Finlayson Smith
Manager e-business
Business partners
CGU Insurance

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