Program Costs: Where to Look to Trim the Budget

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Program managers wage a daily battle to keep costs down and prove return on investment to upper management. In determining where to look to make these cuts, large, visible aspects of a program might be cut, with little or no time figuring out what invisible, less-obvious components could be trimmed.

As an IT professional, sniffing out these opportunities and presenting them as solutions shows your value to the company, as well as stopping cuts on more-visible aspects of office culture such as work-life programs and other employee benefits.

Unless you deal in IT on a daily basis, it’s hard to quantify where the money goes and why. Most people are satisfied when everything is running smoothly and assume everything is in order.

Much like the ocean, calm and serene on the surface with dangers lurking underneath, an IT budget can be entirely wasteful without even looking like it. Why spend extra money on bandwidth that just gets eaten up by YouTube-crazy employees? Why automatically renew countless expensive software licenses when you can switch some to free, open-source programs? Why not merge phone plans for multiple office locations into one?

With the subprime lending markets creating a looming global credit crunch, all industries are feeling the need to pinch pennies and get back to basics. When that happens, the most obvious and visible extravagancies are the first to go.

The ironic part is that such extravagancies often are the very things keeping employee morale high, and negligence and ignorance often keep IT costs much higher than they ought to be.

There are some fairly simple, yet effective, areas to examine when trimming your IT budget. First, manage what you have before getting more of anything (especially true of servers, bandwidth and phone systems).

You can consolidate by running the multiple servers on one high-powered machine, and in regard to bandwidth, there are a few strategies that help to keep everyone’s computer running fast and smoothly. Using a bandwidth-monitoring program, information is given either a high or low priority, based on its importance to the company. And as much as employees might be annoyed, blocking such sites as YouTube and MySpace can make a considerable difference in network speed.

To know if your bandwidth speed is slow, simply do a test: Send a file of known size to a computer and measure the time it takes to download.

Finally, the debate rages over paying for the constant upgrades of proprietary software versus the time of retraining how to use open-source programs. The fear of the unknown certainly steers people toward the former, but if a majority of your employees predominantly use Web browsing, e-mail and an Office-type program, you might be able to save money by switching to their open-source counterparts.

IT program managers have to make difficult choices regarding their budget all the time. Convincing upper-management that off-the-radar IT issues can be tweaked can be a challenge at first, but by describing the aforementioned few strategies, they’ll see there are plenty of viable alternatives available.

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