A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch





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February 8, 2002

The Crystal Ball

© 2002, Douglas E. Welch

Depending on your company, budgets are either gospel or fiction. There seems to be little latitude between. Regardless of how budgets are viewed, , they can be a very powerful tool in building your high-tech career, if you know what to look for and how to plan for the future. While it may seem you are trying to gaze into a crystal ball each time you create a budget, there are ways to make the entire process easier.

February might seem an odd month to address budgeting, but I hope to prepare you for next year’s budget cycle, not the current one. Just like planning for year-end taxes, budgeting is actually an on-going process, not something you turn on and off once a year.

Write it down

The most budgeting action you can take today is this ? start a series of notebooks, spreadsheets, word processing documents that can capture budget items and ideas as they arise. It is not an exaggeration to say that you will be generating budget data every single day. As you go about your work, you will constantly be reminded of items and issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps a current user will need an upgraded computer to deal with new responsibilities. Maybe a major software upgrade is on the way. There might even be a noisy hard disk that needs to be replaced before it fails. Whatever you run into, write it down immediately. If you don’t, you will be hard-pressed to remember it when budget time arrives.

As you go about your work you will be generating all sort of budget items such as these and more. Capturing this information as you work will cut hours from the long year-end budgeting process and be much more effective. Instead of trying to remember everything that needs to be included in the budget, you can simply refer to your on-going data. You will find that this puts you several steps ahead of the usual budgeting process and helps to reduce the stress, as well. Each and every software upgrade, hardware purchase, networking project, etc. will already have its place, only waiting for you to supply the numbers. This allows you to concentrate on the monetary side of budgeting instead of wracking your brain for every item you need to include.

Missing links

While it is fairly easy to gather info about the physical items you need to include in your budget, many people forget some of the intangibles that are a large part of high-tech environments. First and foremost, put a lot of thought into maintenance and repair items. You always need to include some money for often unforeseen, but regularly occurring issues. You don’t want to have to go back to your management for a budget variance each and every time a printer fails or a computer dies. This usually means creating a standard number of dollars for each computer system you own. This sets aside a pool of money that can be applied as needed. While it might cost more than the budgeted amount to repair one computer, others will need no repair at all, freeing their money for more expensive repairs.

Next, consider staff changes and set aside money to add new computer hardware and software. Will you be adding a new department or staffing up for a big project? These people will need hardware and software to do their work. Are your computers aging? You will want to provide money for getting rid of these systems, moving other computers around and bringing in the latest and greatest computers for those who need them most.

Finally, provide yourself with some contingency funds for those items that are entirely unpredictable. No one expects fire or flood, but these, and other emergencies do occur. These contingency funds may never be used, but when they are needed, they are indispensible.

Budgeting need not be a black art, best practiced by those more psychic than yourself. If you gather information as you go and include those things that others often forget, you will be well on the way to developing realistic budgets that help you, your department and your company succeed.

about this column.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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