Too many companies waste money on tech initiatives that do nothing but slow them down. When harnessed correctly, technology can help businesses flourish in ways otherwise impossible. This article outlines the three biggest wastes of tech budget and what CIOs, IT leaders and business owners can do to guarantee return on their digital investments.
Waste #1: Technology initiatives that lack clear direction
Technology initiatives that lack clear direction result in the most wasted resources, including money, time, energy, focus and morale. Take these 5 steps to avoid embarking on directionless tech projects:
Get specific about what the initiative is intended to accomplish. Use specific, objective terms like cost savings, increased revenue, reduced opportunity cost, reduced time to market/time to value, etc. Ask the hard question: How does this initiative align with and support our organization's overall mission and values?
Define unambiguous success criteria. How will results be recognized? For example, define success as compared to past results from other initiatives with similar goals.
Ask the hard question: How will we know we're done and whether or not we've succeeded?
Develop a communication strategy to ensure buy-in. Anticipate how the initiative will be perceived by outside stakeholders (such as investors, potential customers or the community) and others within the organization (such as employees and leadership).
Ask the hard question: How is this initiative likely to be understood by those who influence our success? Even more importantly, how might it be misunderstood?
Clearly define how the initiative will be implemented and adopted. Take into account available resources and limitations. Identify potential pitfalls and have a clear plan for preventing failure.
Make changes incrementally. Course correcting based on actual results is a good thing.
What’s not good is having your teams spend hours implementing strategies, only to have those strategies called into question days later before you can even test the results. Allocating talent to indecisive projects is a waste of resources.
Waste #2: Stale and safe technology investments
Failure to innovate and take advantage of change is a close second in terms of wasted resources.
Here is how to recognize a culture that favors stale investments that feel safe but inhibit innovation:
- The department of “no:” Technology teams can become so focused on mitigating risk that they develop a reputation for saying "no" to all new ideas. These teams are overly conservative, fearing failure and risk. They usually never reach for goals that extend beyond predictable success. Instead of rejecting all change, leaders must learn to help their teams balance risk against opportunity. Mitigate risk without sacrificing creativity and innovation.
- Distracted by comfort: It can feel risky and challenging for a company to take inventory of all the initiatives they are currently engaged in. It’s far more comfortable to become a creature of habit. Companies who innovate develop the uncomfortable but healthy discipline of measuring and assessing every initiative and culling the ones that no longer perform. Implementing regular procedures for retiring ineffective programs is critical if you’re going to also implement procedures for launching new ones.
- Building an empire of wast. Bigger budgets give the impression that you’re getting more done. But beware. Organizations that don’t critically assess their spending are throwing tech budget down the tubes.Pursuing big budget for the sake of big budget is like doing the same thing year after year but hoping for better results -- the definition of insanity.
Waste #3: Inconsistent follow-through
Properly managing the amount of output you’re asking teams to produce goes hand in hand with successful budgeting.
If days or weeks are going by without progress, it may be a sign that you or your teams are trying to do too much. Prioritize the work based on each activity’s non-subjective Total Projected Value.
Here are two ways to find Total Projected Value:
Smart spending for tech leaders
Most IT leaders understand the importance of making data-driven decisions when it comes to budget. What some forget is that, to get good data, you have to balance innovation with risk. Don’t hold back so much that you never improve, and don’t halt progress before you have results to measure. Think critically about goals and the “why” behind your spending. Track historical, actual results, allowing outcomes to shape future budget decisions.
Doug Wilson is a Solution Architect at Praxent.