Grinding Out a Budget: Considerations for 2021

Grinding Out a Budget: Considerations for 2021

The economic shocks of 2020 are drastically affecting the technology budgets of 2021 and pencils are being sharpened. 2020 saw bootstrap, instinctive, reactionary, financial decisions. Many organization’s plans for 2020 were thwarted by the pandemic and were put on hold. There is now no such thing as business-as-usual processes; executives need budget processes streamlined in order to react quickly and strategically with a more proactive than reactive stance. With so much uncertainly going into the new year, how should companies address and prioritize their technology budgets for 2021?

Employee Safety and Productivity 
Many companies have been forced to reduce their workforce, adding stress on remaining staff. Invest in those employees by providing them up-to-date hardware for speed, utilize cloud applications for efficiency, and provide personnel training to address knowledge or skill gaps. 

For organizations that have the ability to adopt a permanent hybrid work/home model or an entirely remote work model, there are some considerations to review for the budget. To keep quality staff happy and productive while working remotely, having a reliable internet connection and appropriately outfitted technology setups (extra monitors, ergonomic wrist supports, printers, phone headsets, and chairs) may feature as required investments. The way we work remotely vs. working in the office is a significant consideration as well. Utilizing cloud-based applications where team members can coordinate, chat, resource, store, and edit files in concert with the whole organization is vital. Changes in working patterns can be stressful for staff. Consider an investment in training in your budget as well as allocating time for training to drive healthy adoption habits and employee happiness. There are many well-executed and engaging training programs that can be utilized as a web-based tools. 

Plan Time
With so many changes, executives need to budget the most precious of all things: their time. Pulse checks with employees are vital to keeping organizations functioning. This is more difficult with remote or hybrid staff, but not impossible. Utilize technology to facilitate these meetings: Microsoft Teams or other chat apps allow “face-to-face” meetings that help maintain irreplaceable office culture as well as monitor employee mental health and work satisfaction.

Many businesses who failed to create and maintain a Business Continuity Plan are no longer in business. For many businesses, COVID IS the worst-case scenario but was unimaginable before this year. Working with a company to create a Business Continuity Plan will allow risks to be audited and different scenarios to be planned for.

Redundancies and Harnessing Buying Power
Look closer and then closer at spending to seek out redundancy. Employees often pay monthly fees for application licenses on their company-issued credit cards. Grammarly, DropBox, and video conferencing applications all have recurring charges that can be managed and paid centrally ofttimes at a discounted rate. Siloed divisions, exacerbated by remote work, often pay multiple times for the same application; Software licensing is best managed by in-house IT or outsourced technology partners to take advantage of group buying power and smart management of assets.

There has never been a more crucial time for businesses to adjust their budgets to get their network security tuned. Do you have multifactor authentication (MFA) measures in place? It is a critical security feature. Don’t “pass” on password policies either. Ransomware, social engineering, and outright hacks are at an all-time high. The perfect storm of employees working remotely while under stress has left organizations vulnerable to employee error and phishing attacks. Phishing and technology security training for users should be instituted. 

Old and unsupported software systems should be carefully reviewed: they are vulnerable to outside attacks since they cannot be patched. End of Life server and desktop operating systems also do not receive critical security patches. Stand-alone copies older software versions – such as Adobe Acrobat don’t auto update without a subscription, and must be updated by hand. These vulnerabilities leave data stored on workstations and servers open to attack. Regarding aging equipment, there is nothing more expensive than having your business go down for hours at a time due to ancient servers –deferred maintenance is generally two times the cost of timely maintenance.

With careful planning of the technology budget, the new year can be met with optimism.