Emphasize Results in Budget Presentations

Don’t talk about spending money; instead, speak to results.

Any conversation about the IT budget needs to get the CFO on your side. Avoiding technical jargon is smart, says Sam Silvers, principal and national service line leader with Deloitte Consulting’s financial management practice, because CFOs’ biggest complaint is that CIOs simply don’t speak the language of business.

But Silvers thinks CIOs should go even further and remove the word “budget” from their vocabulary.

“Budget is a cost-based thing—it’s not investment based,” Silvers says. His phrase for the keep-the-lights-on infrastructure spending? “Risk mitigation.” After all, what happens if you can’t send an e-mail because the company cut the budget for network upgrades?

He recommends that CIOs frame budget discussions in terms of how IT spending does six things:

  • Increases business investment;
  • Increases customer satisfaction;
  • Enhances the customer relationship;
  • Increases revenue;
  • Improves decision support;
  • Mitigates risk.

Vickie Barrow-Klein has had a CFO role at three organizations; her current job is vice president of finance and information management with Save the Children. She says that all these ways of framing budget discussions are music to her ears, especially the idea of positioning infrastructure spending as risk mitigation. She cautions, though, that the specific language one uses should be tailored to the organization one works for. For example, in most organizations IT doesn’t generate revenue directly. So Barrow-Klein wants to hear about efficiencies. She notes that efficiency doesn’t mean doing more with less—“I’ve learned that with IT, it’s about doing more with more,” she says.

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