JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD
Do information-development managers exert budget control over their organizations? I asked for a voluntary response to 13 questions about budgets. As I suspected, CIDM members have considerable control over their own budgets. Of the 17 managers responding to the voluntary survey, 14 submit yearly budgets that include expenditures for personnel and a wide variety of additional items. At the top of the list are the elements of standard benefits packages, including fully loaded headcount-related expenses. Typical headcount-related expenses are benefits, office space and equipment, telephones, and so on. The personnel allocations are based upon reviews of projected projects over a one or two year period.
In addition, managers have budgets for many line items that are required for operating productive departments. These line items typically include travel and training, as well as software and hardware purchases, printing and supplies, consulting, professional development, dues and subscriptions, capital equipment, and depreciation. Within their line-item budgets, most managers have complete spending authority, although training and travel are carefully scrutinized and may require approval by senior managers. Capital equipment expenditures are also subject to approval, especially if they go over certain dollar limits. These limits, however, vary widely, from $1500 to $100,000. In non-capital equipment cases, expenditures over certain amounts sometimes require approval, with levels ranging from a few thousand dollars to over $10,000.
Budgets for training, travel, and conferences are handled somewhat differently from company to company. In most cases, training and conferences are included in a single training budget, with travel factored in but handled separately. Many managers have allocations for training and travel based on headcount but have the ability to allocate the monies to fewer people as required. Six managers have separate conference budgets.
Benchmarking and research are rarely separate budget items. Only two managers have benchmark budgets; only one has a research budget. However, managers are often able to allocate funds from professional development or other areas if funds are available. One manager learned that the information technology (IT) organization to which she reports has a benchmark and research budget but no such funds have been allocated to information development. Finding out if similar budgets exist in other organizations would be worthwhile. In many cases, we learn that marketing has a benchmark and research budget, as do human resources and information technology.
Of the three managers reporting very little if any budget control, only one is a CIDM member. We expect that members may have difficulty renewing because of the lack of any visibility in budget negotiations.
The economic downturn has definitely affected budgeting for all the managers reporting. When asked if they are ever required to make budget cuts in mid-year, 15 managers reported economizing efforts. Several managers had budgets cut two or three times in the last year, depending on corporate revenues and profits. Others have been asked simply to be watchful and economize whenever possible. The most frequent cuts are “variable” items, including training and travel. A few managers remarked that training had been severely restricted to customer-related visits only during 2001.
What about funding for research and benchmark studies? Should they become standard budget line items? I believe that understanding the industry, knowing about trends, and learning from best practices are essential if information-development organizations are to gain and maintain the respect of peers. The purpose of the CIDM is to build a reservoir of information that assists managers in making the best decisions for their customers and their organizations. But the CIDM needs regular funding to survive and thrive, to provide the information resources that managers need to build strong business cases and strategic plans. Without information resources from the leaders in the industry, business plans are little more than speculation.
Consider that the cost of CIDM membership is less than the cost of one contractor for one month and provides much more overall value to the organization.
If you’d still like to take part in the survey, here are the 13 questions:
Send the responses directly to me at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Each respondent will get a complete report of the responses (with no companies identified).