Your Next IT Budget: 6 Ways to Support Business Growth

Make sure your IT budget priorities match up with the current business focus on growth. Here, Forrester Research shares six tips for changing the infrastructure and operations portion of your IT budget to support business expansion.

After a year of deep recession affecting IT budgets, businesses are finally returning to a growth agenda. And infrastructure and operations is no exception: in the coming year, Forrester expects a noticeable bump in IT spend. So what does this mean for the infrastructure professional? It's time to reprioritize initiatives to align with the business' focus on growth. To do so, look at where your dollars are coming from, tap into funds set aside for innovation and growth, and deliver on three critical I&O initiatives.

Infrastructure and operations has always been one of the largest IT functions, so it's no surprise that it can consume up to 50% of the overall IT budget. When asked about spending plans, IT decision-makers told us the I&O budget breaks down into three nearly equal sized buckets. 16% is dedicated to staff, 19% to servers, storage and desktop assets, and 14% maintains the local-area and wide-area networks.

But 2010 will not be business as usual. When asked to categorize the IT spend breakdown, we found that only half of the funds are going to ongoing operations and maintenance. "Keeping the lights on" is taking a backseat while new IT initiatives and expansions move forward, utilizing the other half of IT spend.

When focusing in on just the I&O budget, it breaks down into two nearly equal categories of infrastructure spend. Half is spent on the data center, including servers, storage, and networking, while the other half goes to desktop and device infrastructure.

You might be thinking this sounds like business as usual, so what's the problem? The traditional breakdown of spending half the budget inside the datacenter and the other half on user infrastructure contradicts the mandate to focus on new initiatives and supporting business expansion. If you fall into the 50/50 category, then it's time to break the cycle and focus on three key efforts. Each of these efforts have components that meet the "new IT initiative" and "support business expansion" objectives the CIO and CEO demand.

Start By Transforming Your Desktop

Deploy Windows 7 as a new IT initiative. Most companies skipped Windows Vista and now have an opportunity to capitalize on the PC and workstation budgets to phase in Windows 7. You might be tempted to downgrade to Windows XP to avoid app compatibility hassles, but new features in Windows 7 will help unlock productivity benefits, security and management enhancements, and green IT cost efficiencies.

Implement client virtualization to support business expansion. New desktop and application virtualization technologies support business expansion through bring-your-own-computer programs that can attract and retain new talent, as well as hosted virtual desktop infrastructure to connect third-party users. But transforming the desktop architecture isn't easy—it's time to segment your user population by looking at the mobility and productivity needs that drive the architecture.

Continue By Retooling Your Datacenter For The Path To Cloud

Deploy converged infrastructure as a new IT initiative. Although server, storage, and networks spend will increase in the coming year, the key is not to spend this money in the traditional siloed approach. New converged infrastructures combine server, storage, and networks in a single framework, helping transform the economics running the datacenter. It accelerates the transition to IP storage and helps build cloud-ready infrastructure.

Burst to public IaaS for new applications that support business expansion. Converged infrastructure is a perfect platform for building a hybrid internal/public cloud environment that integrates with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). Why use IaaS? Because many leading I&O teams are using public clouds for more innovative ways to reduce costs and increase operational flexibility. Help meet business expansion with IaaS' low entry costs, ease of use, security, and availability.

Round Out Your Efforts By Industrializing Your IT Operations

Deploy IT automation tools as a new IT initiative. The recession uncorked a lot of process inertia so you can now stop rewarding your team as heroes that put out fires in IT and start motivating them to improve efficiency. Invest in tools to integrate IT operations within the broader business operations. Pick tools that encompass all three to industrialize your operations.

Reorganize your I&O staff in a services model to support business expansion. The emerging I&O org structures all have one thing in common: using IT service management and ITIL concepts to create a more process-oriented organization. This last component is most critical in supporting the expanding business, while the first two initiatives will transform your desktop and build your cloud-ready datacenter. Robert Whiteley is Vice President and Research Director at Forrester Research. He delivers research and advisory solutions for clients' server, desktop, storage, network, and IT service management challenges. This includes solutions for larger infrastructure initiatives like data center transformation, organizational redesign, cloud computing, client virtualization, green IT, and IT service automation.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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