Budgeting is a necessary evil; one that most business leaders approach with a degree of dread.
It's challenging enough trying to forecast funding in support of predictable expenses, but what about the unpredictable ones? Never has this dilemma been more frustrating than when it comes to budgeting for workplace technology, especially for small to mid-size companies with tight margins.
Every month you stumble across a new list like 10 Tech Innovations to Help Your Business or 32 Incredibly Useful Business Gadgets. And as you scan these resources you probably can't help but wonder, How can I find room in my budget to account for technologies I didn't even know I needed?
It's not easy to predict technology trends, but the most crucial elements generally fall into six buckets. When creating your budget, be sure to leave room for these elements:
Most of us focus on the biggest expenses when we begin crunching our technology budgets--software and hardware. After all, these assets will eat up most of your allocated funds and present the greatest risk.
But it's often the smaller expenses that add up quickly. Things like printer cartridges and batteries can be deceiving because of their seemingly insignificant price tags. And when you look at year-end totals, these items can easily add up into the thousands.
Automation software has quickly become your best opportunity to gain an edge over your competitors.
This technology simplifies routine responsibilities so you and your employees can stop juggling menial tasks and zero in on activities that require human intelligence, critical thinking and advanced logic.
Duties like tracking inventory, assigning work orders and mailroom management are all areas of business now being expertly handled by sophisticated automation software.
Thanks to these tools, you have access to fast reporting and real-time data that your team members can use to constantly optimize your business.
If your computers are outdated, your phone systems aren't IP, your servers are old or your network still runs on cable internet, your hardware may be making it impossible to leverage some of the latest technological innovations (such as the IoT, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and more).
What's worse, it may also be putting your business at risk for a security breach. As technology advances, so too must your hardware.
Conduct a hardware assessment each year to determine what's running well and what isn't. If investing in new hardware, make certain it will integrate well with your existing infrastructure. Compatibility is key.
Consumer privacy and data security is not a passing trend. In fact, this line item is only projected to grow.
According to one source, the global cyber security market was worth nearly $75.5 billion in 2015. Experts predict that number will spike to $170 billion by 2020.
Why? Because according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 2015 broke data breach records. Last year alone, there were 781 breaches exposing 169 million records in healthcare, government/military, business, banking and other sectors.
The moral of the story? Give plenty of thought and space in your budget to your network and data security needs.
Conversely, don't forget about physical securities that protect your on-site business. A fair share of breaches are accredited to malicious insider attacks, which means you must protect your assets on all fronts.
Security items to keep in mind this year include:
- Up-to-date enterprise-level firewall
- Up-to-date antivirus software
- On-site security cameras
- Management software with advanced access controls and monitoring capability
- Company-issued smart devices (for greater control if your BYOD program is issue-prone)
- Cloud technology with advanced encryption
Technology is only as good as your ability to use it.
That means if you plan to dedicate a portion of your budget to new software, hardware, or other technology, you also need to consider the cost to properly train your staff and management on how to use it to its fullest. A well-trained workforce is one of your greatest opportunities for maximizing the ROI of new technologies.
Proper training is also a security issue. According to a study by CompTIA, human error still accounts for 52 percent of the root cause of security breaches.
Don't just plan to educate your staff on how to use technology, plan to teach them how to use it to securely handle data.
6. Maintenance & Support
Murphy's Law has become a popular adage in business technology. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
And when it does, you'll be grateful you budgeted for help. Whether it's a third-party security provider, a virtual CIO or supplementary software or hardware services, it's a good idea to leave some room in the budget for extra support, particularly if you don't have a dedicated IT team.
Likewise, don't forget the cost of maintaining your hardware and software to reduce the number of issues requiring support in the first place. This will include time and resources to conduct updates, patches, routine upkeep and more.
Just how much should you be spending on your workplace technology? It depends on the size of your business, the investments you've already made and the business goals you have in mind.
I can tell you this much: Spending on workplace technology is expected to rise 6.7 percent (over $2.1 trillion) by 2017. And there are several reasons why organizations are being encouraged to adopt innovations early.
The point is, don't skimp on the technology portion of your annual budget--it's what drives business in today's modern market.