I recently started helping a school plan a fairly large IT budget. The scope is not only broad in the areas this budget will impact, but the projects will span from 2014-2018. Before I began planning I asked to see the previous budget and documentation prepared by the previous IT Coordinator. The title of the budget, written on the actual document not just the file name, was “Wish List”.
After researching the items on the list and comparing the year’s receivables, I noticed that 30% of the items on the wish list were not ordered. When I asked accounting and IT, “Why were these not ordered?”, they said, “Because it was a wish list and not actual requirements.”
I cannot think of an accountant anywhere that would process a budget titled “Wish List”. Not only is the format simply wrong, but it is does not connect the order to the curriculum or business operations. “Wish List” makes everyone infer that the items are not critical to any organizational process.
This whole process got me thinking. I wondered how many schools budget with idealistic terms and conditions. I also wondered how many schools realize what kind of damage and disorder ordering in half measures causes.
Budgets needs to be built on plans. Plans need to contain everything they need to work. Orders should not be placed unless all the pieces of the plan are included. It really is the same as buying furniture. You would not buy a sofa without the cushions, or a chair without legs. So you should not order 100 wireless devices without the access points and the controller to manage those access points.You cannot order laptops for graphic design and not buy the software. You cannot start a video production class without cameras and some platform for editing. I could go on, and on.
When budgeting, especially for IT, the budget should be specific and definitive. Multiple tabs in a should represent divisional needs, individual high cost projects, administrative sections, software, subscriptions, and any vendor that has a core relationship with the school. This means a workbook full of spreadsheets that summarize on a final spreadsheet that can be used for discussions. And if you don’t use spreadsheets, then just make sure it is organized and easy to explain.
If it goes in the budget, then it is something the organization needs. Some needs out rank others, so they need to be organized in order of importance. If trimming is required, changes can be made easily.
If you take time to add something to the budget, then you should be able to defend the need and connect it to an organizational or curriculum process. If you can’t do that, then save the money for training and professional development. Everyone could use a little CISCO in their life.