Investment can be hard to justify, particularly in times of economic and political uncertainty. But inaction doesn’t equal safety, especially when we’re in the middle of the fourth age of the industrial revolution: digital transformation. Justifying investment in your IT infrastructure needn’t be difficult with this guide.
Understand the Challenges Your Business Faces
As technology advances, and it seems to advance more quickly with each passing year, there’s an even greater need to ensure your business can afford to keep up. As with any other part of your infrastructure, IT needs to be budgeted for.
If you operate using EBITDA, the depreciation of your equipment as it ages is captured by the ‘D’. While this expresses the decreasing worth of your IT equipment to your business, it doesn’t mean you have the necessary budget put aside to cover replacements or upgrades.
To help make the business case for an IT infrastructure refresh, identify the tech-related problems your business is facing. There are plenty of obstacles posed by outdated equipment and software including:
- Fewer productive employees who are slowed down and frustrated by out-of-date technology
- Piles of obsolete hardware taking up precious and expensive floor space
- Restricted staff who can only work effectively from the office
- Servers that are running out of space, breaking down or are Way. Too. Slow
- Outdated security and shaky back-up and recovery
- Changes in headcount that aren’t matched by your IT hardware and software, tying up money in unused equipment
All these challenges pose a risk to your business. Outdated technology makes it harder to recruit top talent and means existing employees are less efficient than they could be. Poor security places you at risk of data loss and the collapse of your ageing systems could bring your business to a complete standstill, costing you money and damaging your reputation.
Traditional set-ups, where you own the IT equipment outright, also pose problems for organisations that plan to change their headcount as the infrastructure is not scalable. It’s also a nightmare to account for as it’s difficult to know what equipment you have available for new hires and what you will need to buy in and when.
Once you have a clear picture of the problems caused by your existing IT set-up, you can take steps to correct it.
Identify the Benefits IT Investment Can Bring
Perhaps you have some idea of the kinds of technology that could work for your business or maybe you’re operating blind. Either way, you should only invest in new technology if you’re absolutely certain about what you need.
Work with your IT provider to understand how your current infrastructure is performing against the requirements of the business. This should include any plans for business growth so you can identify and prepare for changes in technology. You supplier should be able to access all the relevant data to pinpoint inefficient processes that are slowing you down and provide the evidence that shows where investment is called for.
When your business relies on its IT systems to be fully operational, guessing is not an option. If you don’t have your own provider, look for a specialist SME IT supplier that provides a consultancy service. They should have knowledge and experience of your industry to be able to identify solutions that will work well for your business.
A good IT provider will proactively monitor your systems to identify challenges, react to solve issues or recommend upgrades or replacement technology as it’s needed. Your IT consultants should also work closely with your business to keep abreast of planned changes so you’ve got the right infrastructure in place in good time.
What Might the Right Technology Look Like?
Many businesses are moving away from relying solely on in-house servers and turning to cloud services to free up office space and provide additional levels of security and improved back-up and recovery.
Cloud services also provide additional freedoms for employees; with the right combination of software and mobile technology they can work from anywhere at any time. Giving you the benefit of a happier, engaged and more productive workforce who are more likely to stay with your organisation.
A traditional IT infrastructure review might not have included telephony in the past but with options like Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOiP) solutions now available, this is something you should consider. Instead of relying on traditional telephones, more businesses are using the internet to make cheaper calls from their computers wherever they might be.
Make Your Budget Work Harder
Historically, IT upgrades have meant shelling out a lot of money upfront to pay for new hardware and software. Today, IT leasing schemes are replacing this inflexible model by allowing you to hire software and hardware, like PCs, laptops, mobile devices, phones and servers, helping you to spread the cost on a monthly basis.
When employees leave the business you give notice on their kit and it’s removed, freeing you up from piles of obsolete hardware. And when you reach the end of your hire agreement, you can upgrade to the latest technology keeping your business on the front foot. It’s also possible to include the cost of set-up, maintenance and updates in the lease agreement so you have a simple, single price per head for all your IT needs.
One of the major benefits of this approach is that you can quickly and easily calculate the spend required on a per employee basis. This makes it easy to cost for any planned changes in business size because you have a single figure for each new hire or leaver that you can add to or subtract from your budget.
Measure Your Return on Investment
There are two main ways to measure the return on investment for your project: tangible and intangible benefits. Examples of tangible benefits are items like project savings or improved income and can include:
- Reduction in time and money associated with travel
- Increased productivity through faster more effective IT equipment and software
- Reduced downtime and maintenance and fewer IT issues to resolve
- Improved software vendor support with quicker responses and faster fixes
Intangible benefits are harder to quantify but should also be referenced. They might include:
- Improved customer satisfaction or sales thanks to improved usability and service
- Faster, automated or improved business processes that enable employees to access information more quickly
- Higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction with the tools they use
- Improved IT financial forecasting and budget control
Moving forward with the flexibility of cloud services and leasing systems means confidence in monthly costs as well as more uptime and enhanced security and back-up and recovery systems. Giving you demonstrable value and easier budgeting for downsizing or business growth. Now, that’s a lot of bang for your buck.