Today's post is from PTG CEO Reed Wilson.
Every year, we work through our budget and forecast process. I know I am in the minority, but this is one of my favorite activities. The budget sets our course for the coming year and helps us know if we are on track, and if not, allow for course corrections.
Even as an IT company, we still budget for IT expenses. In fact, we focus on three areas in this budget line item: 1) People and Growth, 2) IT Support, and 3) Equipment. Over the next few months, I will be sharing how we go through this process. Remember that if you are a PTG customer, we are happy to help you work through this process!
The first piece of a solid IT budget involves planning for your people needs and your growth plans for the coming year. These two often work in tandem but can occasionally be separated. When thinking about these areas, we look at our existing spaces, the way our people work, and the tools that they have at their disposal.
Several years ago, we struggled with the 'how' of forecasting growth. For us, this came down to understanding our sales process and keeping a pulse on the pipeline (for new business) and customer satisfaction (for existing business). Our CRM system gives us visibility into these two areas. Without access to these tools and an understanding of how our sales process, forecasting growth (or contraction) would be really tough for us.
Existing and New Spaces
Most companies have at least one ‘common’ space where people gather for meetings. Every year, we look at how this space is being used to determine if we need to budget for changes.
For example, a few years back we noticed that our conference space wasn’t flexible enough so we got rid of our old tables and added rolling tables and chairs. Now we can set that space up as a ‘conference room’ where the tables are in a rectangular format or ‘classroom style’ if we are doing internal training or hosting a customer training event.
We also focus heavily on metrics so we invested in monitors that make our key metrics highly visible to everyone in the company. Take a look at your existing spaces to see if you should plan on making changes for next year to make your team more productive.
Occasionally customers will renovate spaces or move to a new space entirely. This is a great time to take stock of how your team works. Plan your space accordingly!
The Way People Work and the Tools They Use
The way that people work continues to evolve as well. More and more companies are allowing employees to work remotely. We invested in a phone system, through Skype for Business with our Office 365 subscription, that allows our team to have a single phone number regardless of where they are working or what device they are using. Our presence is also available ‘real time’, so before someone calls a co-worker or transfers a call, they can easily see if they are available or not.
We have also moved almost all of our systems to the cloud, allowing for ease of access regardless of where our team may be located. Look at your own business – how much are you planning to grow? Will you be able to support that growth with the tools and systems you currently have in place?
Several years ago, our team members carried a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, and a wireless hotspot. Today, we have consolidated these tools down to just a laptop (that can also be a tablet) and a smartphone (that can also be a hotspot, desk phone and in some cases a tablet, too!). Ask your team members about the tools that they need to stay productive – you may find that less is more!
Choose the Right License Models for Growth
Read your agreements very carefully – in many cases, we see customers that agree to a certain ‘floor’ on users in licenses or length of time in a contract. This can be very costly in cases where your business hits a bump and needs to lower your user counts. You shouldn’t be locked into an agreement that doesn’t fluctuate with your needs.
As another example, we had a customer who was 2 years into an ISP agreement when they moved offices. When the moved their ISP services to the new location, they were not aware that they signed a contract locking them into a new 3-year agreement.
Growth can be an exciting time for a business, but without properly planning and budgeting for it, it can become a headache. When planning and budgeting for new technology to accommodate growth, don’t wait until the last minute or until something else is starting to break. Successfully implementing new technology doesn’t happen overnight.