19 March 2009
How to budget IT as recession bytes
Let's face it, even some of the big architectural practices are probably looking at the possibility of being a bit smaller in the immediate future. With April just around the corner, it's the time for many practices to consider their IT expenditure budget for the coming financial year. When the pressure is on, what are some of the key things to consider?
IT systems are now critical to the functioning of an architectural business. If the system falls down, it can mean lost data and lost time. Make sure you are not underinvesting in your server and back-up systems. Keeping these in good health is essential. You should make financial contingencies for servers reaching data capacity or for those which are three or more years old. Replace, upgrade or extend manufacturers’ warranties according to your resources.
If you find yourself thinking about saving money on software upgrades of file server, mail server, back-up or antivirus applications — don't do it. All these items are too essential for you not to have access to the latest versions.
Workstation hardware should similarly be considered for replacement on a three to four-year cycle. Be aware that newer hardware will come with new versions of operating systems. Check the compatibility of your software and the availability of updated drivers for your peripherals to avoid any unexpected knock-on costs if you have to upgrade these as well.
The upgrade cycle of workstation software packages can sometimes seem like a daunting financial treadmill. Check for the availability of maintenance packages that allow continuous eligibility to upgrade within an annual fee. Where these are not available, consider the real value of a "must-have" piece of software in terms of productivity, compatibility and bug fixes. Using old, unsupported versions of software or different versions of the same software is often counterproductive, but leapfrogging alternate major software releases can offer a pragmatic and effective compromise.
Plan to recoup cash
IT planning isn't just about spending, it is also about implementing improvements that strengthen day-to-day and strategic working. Consolidating disparate contact databases, improving access to and searchability of archives or starting an office wiki are just three ways of boosting knowledge-sharing in your business. Updating and improving the documentation of your IT system and clarifying office protocols can also improve its smooth running. These require more in terms of human rather than capital resources.
Think also about how technology might help you save or even recoup money. A prime example is print-logging software. This is sometimes resident within the driver software of larger multifunctional printers, or else third-party applications such as Print Audit 5 (www.printaudit.com) can capture print-logging to almost all printers regardless of the mix of models or indeed whether you are using Macs or PCs.
The annual IT budget doesn't need to be a headache. Architecture is a creative business, and that same creativity can be applied to setting your IT goals.
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