How to get CFOs to funnel $$$ into IT budgets

November 30, 20174 Minute Read

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Remember 2008? Your CFO does. That’s when the Great Recession forced companies to tighten the purse strings to stay afloat, and some CFOs still feel shell shocked even though it’s been nearly a decade. Getting more money out of them for anything can prove difficult, but this fact seems especially true when it comes to IT budgets.

Unfortunately, market downturns are cyclical and, like it or not, another one will come. But hackers don’t take breaks. Imagine if your company suffered a major breach, outage, or downtime while coping with another recession?

As an IT manager, you know a crisis could be averted if your budget was more proactive with its money for necessary upgrades and security add-ons, but that means convincing your CFO to give you more money. Instead of marching into their office with a speech and soapbox in hand, try these five tactics.

1. Have a conversation, not an argument

You’re both on the same side, but when you take a me-versus-you approach, you immediately put your CFO on defense. Set the stage by talking about and highlighting security breaches happening to other companies, like the recent Equifax breach—everyone’s heard of it, and your CFO will be better able to understand the magnitude and impact this type of security breach can have on an organization.

Then, mention what steps could have been taken to prevent the situation and go into detail. Don’t hold back, and talk honestly about what would happen if a similar crisis breaks out at your company.

2. Remind them that IT impacts the entire company

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas when it comes to IT. Security breaches and downed servers impact all departments in your company and, more importantly, the bottom line. To get the CFO on board, you need to hit them (figuratively) where it counts—in the company’s wallet.

Let your CFO know that it’s not just about IT budgets: More money is an investment that protects everyone. Demonstrate that money spent now will prevent big losses later, and don’t hesitate to throw in a few stats, like this one: Almost 80 percent of companies experienced a cyber attack in 2016, according to the 2017 Cyberthreat Defense Report.

3. Compare your budget to your industry’s average

Sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing—just don’t tell anyone you heard that here. The market research firm Computer Economics provides an annual report on IT spending of North American companies, and its latest data finds that 65 percent of companies are increasing their IT spending.

Where the money goes is changing, though. Organizations are shifting from IT capital investments to operational expenses, and they’re spending more money on cloud and security services. If you can show your CFO that other companies around your size or within your industry are allocating more money to IT, you might persuade them to be a little more competitive.

4. Demonstrate shortfalls or changes from last year’s budget

Review your current budget and identify the problems it presented for your team. Did your team lose productivity because you spent more hours putting out fires instead of working on big projects? Did you spend time fixing breaches that could’ve been prevented with more secure technology?

Instead of settling for the same amount of money, demonstrate the consequences that happened as a result of your current budget constraints—and make sure to mention what’s changed since last year. For example, have there been price changes in technology or equipment, or has company growth required upgrades?

5. Lose the geek speak

You might be excited to talk about the new technology you want to implement, but your CFO probably can’t tell the difference between AI and IA—even if they buy a vowel. To get them on board, focus on this acronym instead: WIIFM. What’s in it for me? Don’t patronize and talk down to them, but leave out the tech talk. Your goal is to be as clear as possible—and that means speaking English, plain and clear.

Getting a CFO to buy into any budget request can prove challenging. Help your case by getting other department managers to speak on your behalf, sharing examples of how your department helped them do their jobs. There is power in numbers—and that can turn into a bigger number for your budget.

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