IT Budgeting | Feature

5 Tips for Securing IT Funding

Campus Technology offers up a handful of tactics from three Campus CIOs for funding your IT infrastructure projects this year.

With a cloudy funding picture in store for 2012 college CIOs are honing their presentation and negotiating skills and relying on them to secure financing for their IT projects. Convincing the powers that be to put up the money for a new server, network, e-mail system, or campus-wide phone setup isn't easy. Behind-the-scenes systems can be particularly difficult to justify in a funding environment where every new IT investment must prove its worth as quickly as possible.

To find out how CIOs are successfully taking their IT projects from the drawing board and into reality, Campus Technology spoke with a few who accomplished that task in 2011. Ready to replicate that success this year, the CIOs offered up their top 5 budgeting secrets. Whether your IT department relies on internal funding sources, external resources, or a combination of the two, these budgeting tips will provide a solid foundation for getting your projects out of the planning stages and in the works in 2012.

1. Focus on vendor relationship management. In 2011 the University of Kentucky's IT department orchestrated a desktop virtualization project that involved 1,200 computers in 18 campus labs. Vince Kellen, CIO for the Lexington, KY institution, said at least part of the initiative was funded through good supplier relationship management, product consolidation, and the renegotiation of existing contracts.

By automating the purchase process and using ecommerce strategies, for example, UK saved money both for itself and for its vendors. That money was then fed back into the IT budget and "used to pay for even more technology," said Kellen.

2. Develop a compelling business case. Post University in Waterbury, CT rolled out its new constituent relationship management (CRM) package in 2011. Now the school's IT team is shopping around for a campus-wide phone system and a document management package to tie into that new CRM.

Before introducing such projects, Michael Statmore, CIO, said his department spends about a year researching the available options, talking to vendors about product features and pricing, and developing a solid business case for the technology.

"We pinpoint the best suppliers, applications, products, and pricing before we get in front of the university president," said Statmore, "and always come to the meeting with a business case that supports the amount of money that we're going to spend."

3. Be ready to work harder on the "speculative" investments. The University of Kentucky's president, provost, and the rest of its executive leadership board all comprehend the value that technology brings to the table in the educational setting. What they don't always comprehend is how specific investments translate into improved efficiencies, better productivity, and cost savings. That's where Kellen and his IT team come in.

"Right now we're trying to go paperless, and it's not clear to the decision makers just how document imaging turns into cost savings," said Kellen, who called such initiatives "speculative investments." Getting those projects approved is always more difficult. "We have to work hard to get the decision makers to set aside the money to make those projects happen."

4. Examine your leasing options. Many of Westmont College's capital expenses are on leases. In fact, the Santa Barbara, CA-based school's wired infrastructure, desktop and laptop computers, and security system were all financed this way in order to save on upfront costs. "We're using leases instead of paying for an item once and using it until it dies," said Reed A. Sheard, CIO. The strategy has created more predictable budget costs for the IT department, allowed it to stagger the total equipment expense over multiple years, and freed up funding for other projects.

"In some cases we wind up with extra income to invest because we're making lease payments over several years," said Sheard, "and not allocating a lump sum for one capital requirement."

5. Balance the boring projects with the exciting ones. The IT investments that Westmont College's IT department campaigns for aren't always exciting or glamorous. Bring up the subject of network stabilization systems or servers, for example, and a decision maker's eyes will quickly glaze over with boredom. "Some of it is pretty boring stuff that's critical for our users and the school," said Sheard, who said he balances out those the snoozers with more exciting initiatives that garner his audience's attention. "Our cloud initiatives, iPhone application, and our move to iPads all helped build confidence in our IT department," he said. "As that confidence built up the budget discussions became a lot easier across all projects."

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