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Do We Need To Budget For IT?

Do We Need To Budget For IT?

No matter what type of business you run, the answer to this question is “Yes.” And now we’ll ask… What is your budget for information technology? Is it well thought out and fiscally responsible?

If you have a CFO, he or she is likely doing this for you. But many small and mid-sized businesses are on their own when it comes to devising an IT budget. In this case, your Technology Service Provider is your best reference, because they know about your business, the latest trends and security needs in technology, and IT solutions coming down the road.

Why Do We Need A Budget For Information Technology?  

Budgeting is obviously essential as it provides what you need to run your company. Without the proper appropriations, you could end up short on what you need to meet your customers’ demands and your business goals. You budget for other expenses like office rent, utilities, and supplies, right? Beyond this, you need to identify how you’ll need Information Technology to operate your business and execute your initiatives.

Just like you should have an IT roadmap that aligns with your business plan – one that takes you from where you are to where you want to be – your IT budget provides direction and details for your funding requirements to ensure that you have the technology to meet your business goals.

Consider your budget as a validation and support tool for your overall IT strategy. It will be the benchmark and cornerstone for your overall strategic IT management. A good IT budget will give you the ability to manage technology costs for both the short and long term. It will also give you the agility you need to adjust IT expenditures when changes come about.

Is IT Budgeting Difficult To Do?

Companies of all types and sizes struggle with IT budgeting. This is because the financial side of the business doesn’t always understand the technology that employees need to do their jobs efficiently, securely, and productively, and the IT team and employees don’t always understand the process of budgeting. The common ground, however, is when both parties look at the IT budgeting process as an investment in your organization’s future.

What’s Involved In IT Budgeting?  

It’s the process of allocating money to various IT services and solutions. These could be recurring expenses like Managed IT Services, where you pay a monthly fixed fee for an all-inclusive service plan. It should also include the hardware and software you’ll need to either purchase or lease on a monthly, per-user basis.

For most companies, IT budgeting is an annual process.

However, if unexpected IT projects come up, you may need to revisit your budget. Some view IT budgeting as a wish list of funding for every possible scenario. They see it as one big pool of money. When in fact, an IT budget comprises many components including capital, operating and project categories, and other types of expenditures such as hardware, software, subscriptions, and services.

A good IT budgeting process is similar to personal financial planning. Both processes establish short and long-term goals. It considers account spending and other constraints. It examines the “human” impact and analyzes strategies to determine the approach that aligns best with business goals while minimizing risks.

How Do We Get Started? 

Start by establishing various categories depending on the complexity of your operations and the extent of your requirements. Here’s a very basic example of some of the categories you should consider:

  • IT Service & Support (in-house and/or outsourced) Be sure to include recruiting and salary/benefit costs if you employ IT staff
  • Hardware: computers, servers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, network infrastructure, cabling, IP phones, video surveillance cameras, maintenance contracts, etc.
  • Software: licenses, subscriptions, support, maintenance contracts
  • Projects: IT consulting expenses, hardware, software, dedicated staff, cybersecurity training

If you run a mid-sized business and you have various departments, you may want to allocate various elements of your IT budget to these departments. In this case, you’ll have charge-back costs for each department. This is a bit more complex so your accountant should be consulted.

What Would Happen If We Didn’t Have An IT Budget? 

Without a budget, how will you justify your IT expenditures? These costs would go into your overhead, and you wouldn’t have a proper accounting of what you’ll need both short and long-term. Smaller businesses should also have an IT budget. Simple expenditures can expand into significant IT spending that you can’t account for.

Plus, your IT budget keeps your spending in check. It lets you know whether you’ve over-committed in one area and need more in another. It also allows you to compare what you’re spending in one department versus another.

Your IT budget lets you quickly identify areas where you may be overspending. For example, you might be wasting money on outdated or unused equipment or software licenses. Without an IT budget, you can get caught short and not have the resources you need to meet customers’ demands or comply with deadlines.

What Are IT Budgeting Best Practices? 

Align your IT budget with your organization’s strategy. If you don’t have an IT strategy, you should ask your technology service provider to help you design one. At the very least, develop a basic strategy that you can use as the basis for your IT budget. 

Consider all levels of your organization. Set aside the time and effort it takes to create a holistic and comprehensive budget. It will be the financial manifestation of your overall IT strategy and direction over the coming year. Use it to compare budgets year after year. Once IT initiatives have been determined and incorporated into your budget, take a step back from the details and look at the big picture.

Consider the human element. This is often overlooked when developing technology budgets. Look at how any changes you make will affect your employees’ ability to do their jobs efficiently and productively. Will they be able to work remotely with mobile solutions and cloud computing? Make sure that you account for any training they will need, including training to use new software or hardware solutions, as well as Security Awareness Training to prevent being victimized by phishing and ransomware.

Take measurements to ensure it makes financial sense. Assess your IT budget’s impact on three areas: financial key performance indicators (KPIs), financial statements and cash flow. Your accountant can help you with this. Account for your spending against the previous year’s budget so you can account for any deficiencies and variances that you’ll need for the future. 

Assess the impacts of your IT budgeting for the long term. Several months before your budget is due to be approved, review last year’s budget and this year’s expenses. This will help you detect areas where you need to reduce costs or reallocate them. You can cut the “fat” from your budget in one area (like hardware purchases or software licenses) that you can apply to a more cost-effective resource (like Hardware-as-a-Service or Software-as-a-Service).

A long-term outlook is best in any case. Assess your IT budget’s financial impact not only for the current or upcoming year but also for future years where IT initiatives might be affected. You don’t want to “balance the budget” for this fiscal year, only to run into unintended consequences in years to come. A good IT budget balances both short-term and long-term requirements.

In Conclusion

When you employ a strategic approach to IT budgeting, you’ll have a planning and decision-making tool that will ensure you maximize the benefits of your technology investments.

What is your budget for IT? In the final analysis, a good budget for information technology will give you a competitive advantage because, along with your IT roadmap, it will provide you with a strategy to achieve your goals. Your technology solutions provider can play a supportive role in helping develop an IT budget that meets your needs today and tomorrow.

17 Critical Questions You MUST Ask Before Hiring Any IT Company

17 Critical Questions You MUST Ask Before Hiring Any IT Company

If You Depend On Your Computer Network To Run Your Business, This Is One Report You DON’T Want To Overlook!

This report will explain in simple, non-technical terms what you need to look for when outsourcing your IT support, as well as cost-saving strategies, insider tips, and 17 revealing questions you MUST ask any computer consultant before giving him access to your computer network. If your current support person/company can’t answer a confident “Yes” to all 17, it might be time to look for someone else.

I’d be willing to wager that your computer network and the critical data it holds is not nearly as secure as you think it is. How do I know?

Because over and over again I’m absolutely horrified by the incompetence and irresponsibility I discover when I audit most business networks. In nearly all of the computer networks I review, I find faulty or non-existent backups, security loopholes, shoddy reporting, and flawed systems that simply cost more to maintain and don’t align with the operations of the business.

Not a week goes by where we don’t get an urgent call from a business owner with a major technical disaster that could have been prevented by performing basic tasks. Why do so many businesses pay for substandard computer support? Simply because they don’t know how to truly verify that their network is secure, and end up having to take someone at their word.

That’s why I’ve decided to write this report for all the business owners in our area to educate them about what to look for in an IT consultant. Quite honestly, I’m shocked at the oversights and sloppiness of most self-proclaimed “experts” and want to see the standards raised. Below, you’ll find a quick test you can use to determine whether or not your network really is being supported properly. 

If your current support person/company does not score a “yes” on every point, you could be paying for substandard support, wide open to a very expensive (and very frustrating) computer disaster, or worse yet, putting your data as well as your client’s data at risk:

  • Do they answer their phones and respond to support issues in 4 hours or less – even after regular business hours?
  • Are they proactively monitoring your network 24-7-365 to keep critical security settings, virus definitions, and security patches up-to-date?
  • Do they insist on monitoring an offsite as well as an onsite backup (Backup Rule of 3-2-1), or are they letting you rely on outdated tape backups?
  • Do they insist on doing periodic test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?
  • Have they provided you with written network documentation detailing what software licenses you have, critical network passwords, and hardware information, or are they the only person with the “keys to the kingdom?”
  • Do they consistently (and proactively) offer new ways to improve your network’s performance, or do they wait until you have a problem to make recommendations?
  • Do they provide detailed invoices that clearly explain what you are paying for?
  • Do they explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand?
  • Do they complete projects on time and on budget, or does every project end up taking longer and costing more than you expected?
  • Do they offer any guarantees on their services?
  • Do they arrive on time and dress professionally?
  • Do they have other technicians on staff that are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
  • Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in ongoing training, or do you feel as though they are learning on your dime?
  • Do they take calls from other clients while working on your network?
  • Do you have to manage their progress on projects, or do they provide frequent updates, status reports, and follow-up calls and e-mails?
  • Do they offer flat-rate or fixed-fee project quotes, or do they give themselves a wide-open playing field with “time and materials” for the basics?
  • Do they offer “Not to Exceed” on projects or do you have to wait until the end of the project to find out what it is going to cost you?

If your current IT support person/company didn’t answer “yes” to ALL of these questions, then you need to start looking at another company to help support your IT needs. There are local IT companies that can actually answer “yes” to all of these questions and provide you with IT support at a fraction of what you are paying today.

How do you go about finding a new IT support company? Start with our FREE 2-Hour assessment. We will complete a 42-point assessment of your current IT investment. We will meet with you and key employees from your company to discuss how to leverage your IT investment in order to increase your profits and reduce your business risks. All of this comes at no cost and/or obligation to purchase anything in the future. All it requires is a little investment of your time.

For more information about our FREE 2-Hour Assessment or any of our other services, please contact us (724) 261-3034 or at sales@mproactive.com

Will Machines Take Over the World?

Will Machines Take Over the World?

This is what people sometimes say when you start talking about machine language and artificial intelligence. Though it’s true that a computer can perform long, complex mathematical computations, it could never understand a small boy’s love for a cute puppy. All those emotions that humans have, all those irrational beliefs – it might be hard to find a robot who would get it.

As we’ve all seen in the movies, robots have no understanding of human emotions like love. There are many other esoteric concepts that humans display regularly. These feelings are much more a part of our existence than we think. We take them for granted. But would a machine understand why you’ve kept your mother’s old quilts for 40 years?

Perhaps someday our robots will be sophisticated enough to comprehend emotions like hate, love, revenge, forgiveness, and empathy. Today, however, we’re a long way from that happening. This knowledge hasn’t prevented technology experts from moving forward with innovative ideas. It looks like the future will be full of incredible things we can only imagine.

Artificial intelligence and the attorney

The legal field often deals with strong emotions like love, hate and revenge. The motive for murder is frequently nothing more than simple jealousy. The motive for robbery or embezzlement is most commonly greed. Since the law so often deals with complex human emotions, will it be able to fully utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence?

Though it has represented a significant hurdle for our best and brightest experts, legal professionals are finding ways that it can be done. Almost any attorney would be interested in learning how a particular judge might rule in his case. Information like this is priceless. But so many lawyers today are unfamiliar with the technology and the terminology. For those who are intrigued by the possibilities available now in machine learning and artificial intelligence, it’s important to know the basic jargon.

The technology behind these applications can be overwhelming for anyone without a background in robotics. However, we can learn the basics about each type of technology and take advantage of the awesome opportunities just waiting for those who are willing to take a step into the future.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This is a broad term describing a wide range of technologies that can perform complex tasks that were once only performed by humans. This includes self-driving cars, speech recognition, robotics, algorithmic stock trading, medical imagery devices and a few others. The list grows almost daily.

Artificial intelligence is having a deep impact on the legal field, the business community, the medical field and the financial industry. As new advancements are made, it will become almost essential to understand AI well enough to know where you can best implement it in your law firm.

In the the legal profession, artificial intelligence is already making many of those time-consuming, redundant jobs much easier. AI can be used to analyze legal contracts, review documents, and manage billing tasks. One of the more exciting applications is in the area of data mining. AI is now being used to sort through millions of litigation documents to find the strategic insights that can help you win your case.

Though machines may never be able to replace a well-trained litigator, they can quickly comb through a mountain of data and extract the exact information you will need to get the right verdict. AI applications offer a wide range of possibilities, and yet they can be targeted to accomplish very specific skills. The trick is in learning which tasks are best done by a human being, and which ones should be completed by artificial intelligence.

Many of today’s law firms are using AI-based legal tools for research. They’re also using them to identify drafting errors, predict outcomes, identify litigation trends and much more. As law firms begin to understand the potential behind machine learning, expect them to venture out more into this realm.

Cognitive Computing and Augmented Intelligence

Cognitive computing is often used interchangeably with AI. However, there is a subtle difference between the two. In the field of cognitive computing, developers strive to simulate the human thought process. This technology utilizes data mining, natural language processing and pattern recognition technology. The goal is to solve problems without human intervention. Using machine learning algorithms, this technology is continuously acquiring new knowledge. The hope is that someday it will be able to anticipate problems before they happen and provide working solutions.

Augmented Intelligence uses numerous AI applications as well. These include natural language programming, robotics, neural networks and virtual reality. While AI is more about replacing thousands of human actions using a computer program, Augmented Intelligence is more about enhancing the human experience. Humans would use virtual reality and robots to help them with complex, large and small tasks.

In the world of artificial intelligence, you might hear terms like “robot lawyers.” In the world of augmented intelligence, advanced technology would enhance a human attorney’s skills. At the end of the day, both technologies are necessary because there will be times when a robot lawyer might actually be a better idea.

For instance, think about the enormous time spent by judges who are dealing with small crimes like petty theft, speeding tickets, drunk and disorderly conduct, etc. Most of these crimes don’t require a judge and jury. They could easily be decided by a computer algorithm that measures the facts of the case against the written law pertaining to the case. This type of robot lawyer could process cases with better accuracy than a human judge and at a much faster rate. This would equal a substantial cost savings to the city and law enforcement.

Analytics

Most people understand the term “analytics” now due to widespread usage of analytics programs that tell you how your website is doing. Today’s advanced analytics programs do more than just analyze data. Using sophisticated tools, they parse through massive amounts of data and eliminate anything considered irrelevant or redundant. Next, the data is structured so that it can be readily used. Analytics is a field that constantly changes because new data is being entered and sorted each day. This process is building a colossal database of all knowledge.

An analytics program can be configured to work in specific fields like the law, medicine, sales, stock trading or any number of areas. You might profit from knowing how well appliance sales do on certain days of the week. This same technology could also tell you how likely a criminal is to commit additional crimes.

What does the future hold?

As we move forward, it behooves us all to learn about machine learning, augmented intelligence, analytics, and cognitive computing. As with every new advancement in futuristic technology, the more we know, the more readily we’ll be able to adopt the technology and accept it into our lives. There are already much easier and cheaper ways to accomplish most of our everyday redundant tasks.

You can tell your Roomba to “Start Cleaning.” You can ask Alexa where a restaurant is located and how late they’re open. You can help your teenager with a complex math equation. But, you can’t tell Alexa to pick up the kids from school.

Our machines may someday perform all our normal household and many of our work-related tasks. At the moment though, there are certain things that only humans can do. However, humans augmented by artificial intelligence will be able to complete those tasks much faster and with better accuracy.

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