Last week, I wrote a LinkedIn post about finding personal balance. In it, I explored how focus – narrowing your time and effort to achieve specific goals – ultimately decides your future.
The same is true when it comes to balancing your IT spending. Where you allocate time, resources and money will dictate what gets done today, and by extension, what will be possible tomorrow.
It sounds obvious. But I raise the point because we’ve all found ourselves tethered to a “best efforts” project. You know, the thing that needs to get done and that everyone agrees is important, but which has no funding and no dedicated resources. The kind of project that gets a delivery deadline and little else. Everyone is just expected to “make it happen” in between all of their other priorities.
I can tell you right now, I have never seen a project succeed by best efforts alone. Anything that’s a priority needs dedicated time and resources. Without them, projects either die off, re-cast as “non-essential,” or they flounder until the fallout becomes critical and money is found to enable them. Meanwhile, unresolved issues compound, and the distraction alone costs your organization a pretty penny in lost productivity.
Growth vs. maintenance
It can be challenging to get some projects the attention they deserve. Maintenance projects – the foundational work that keeps IT operational – are a classic example. These keep-the-lights-on activities generally fall to the bottom of the priority list because it’s difficult to argue the value of spending money on something just to avoid having it break. And soft benefits like risk avoidance don’t provide an instant return on investment.
But balancing your IT spending across a mix of projects that support growth, innovation and maintenance will help keep your organization healthy and relevant.
Once you have a high-level spending plan, assess your priority projects to ensure you’re spending enough on the foundational efforts that keep your IT infrastructure functioning effectively. If you find these costs ballooning (i.e., if your maintenance projects become high-maintenance), it may be time to re-evaluate your technology, processes or leadership to recover your competitive edge.
A constant balance
Balanced spending isn’t a once-a-year issue. It requires continued attention. For the best results, your project management office should be collecting and analyzing data about how you’ve historically allocated funds between maintenance, growth and innovation projects, and using that data to shape future decisions. You may be surprised at the insights to be gained from your spending cycle.
For example, based on an analysis of your organizational change over time, you may find neglected aspects of your business that are in desperate need of upgrading simply because no one has championed them in years.
Again, sometimes a little money can go a long way if spent before a pressing need arises. If you wait until you have to spend money on something, you’ll probably end up spending more than if you had employed a “preventative maintenance” mindset. Treat these projects like regular oil changes for your business. Sure, you may be able to postpone them for a short time, but ignore them for too long, and you’ll find yourself with a seized engine and a serious bill.
Ensuring a well-balanced spending strategy for IT will not only improve your chances of success but will also make it easier for your organization as a whole to absorb the changes taking place.
You need to be smart about your spending. Sure, it may seem obvious to stop maintaining a system that’s been flagged for retirement. But what if there were a flaw in the server or the retirement had to be pushed back? What’s the risk of forgoing maintenance in favor of new projects? What’s the associated cost? There is real value in understanding where it's worth investing.
How cShell can help
With cShell’s Valuing IT offering, we can help you set a balanced IT spending strategy that will help you maximize organizational efficiency without sacrificing growth. We will give you the tools to understand your existing capacity for change and innovation within your current resources. And we will help you prioritize your project portfolio to enable a more balanced, more robust, approach to achieving current and future objectives.
Let us help you make smart decisions about where you'll accept spending risk and where you won't. Focusing on key priorities and balancing your spend between maintenance and growth activities will strengthen your team and help ensure a brighter future for your organization.