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Using the ITIL process for your next budget planning

Posted on September 12, 2012 by Mark Thomas

Heads up – your 2013 budget is due soon. It will be here before you know it so assemble the team and start planning.

If you're on a calendar year financial cycle, it is likely you're starting to hear rumblings about the upcoming budget planning cycle. Don't fret, here are some hints to helping you ease the pain as well as prepare you for things you may not have considered. The purpose of this is not to replace your current process, but to provide you with a short and sweet reminder of some things to take in to account.

I've been involved in a lot of budget planning, and had an "aha" moment about three years ago when I was putting together my budget that I wanted to share with you: if my IT Service organization leverages ITIL processes to support my services, why don't I use those processes to help me plan the budget? Of course I could outline the full complement of processes here and explain their applicability, but I decided to pick a few of the big ones that seemed to help me the most. Here are some good nuggets to consider as you are preparing your budget items. Of course it's not a complete list, but this should be enough to trigger some great ideas.

Portfolio, Demand, and Capacity Management. Understanding that your portfolio represents the complete set of services provided, seek to gain an understanding of the pipeline. These are the services, projects, programs and initiatives that are planned for next year. Of course, you cannot do this without input from your customers. Understanding their demand needs and patterns of business activity will indicate increases or decreases in expectations. Without this, all of your planning is mute. What growth is expected? Are there any business initiatives that warrant increased capacity? Now is also good time to review the operational services you support today and give your catalog a facelift.

Availability and Continuity Management. This is absolutely critical. Although it has been my experience that most organizations take availability into account, they often fail to consider any changes or modifications to continuity plans. Although these are technically considered different processes, they have a very strong bond. Plan your availability budget around vital business functions and business impact analysis. For example, the more critical a service is to the business, the more effort you put into the components that support that service. On the continuity side, what are the costs to satisfying the business continuity plan from the IT perspective?

Service Level Management. If you've been conducting your service reviews, you probably are aware of changes to current SLAs. Will these agreements require any changes to your financial models? Remember that there's more to Service Level Management than SLAs, they also consider Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) and Underpinning Contracts. Underpinning Contracts need to be considered because they are contracts with suppliers and vendors. These contracts should support SLAs, and must be analyzed to ensure proper alignment with the service requirements.

If you recognized the above Service Management processes, you may also recognize the following list. Don't forget to consider each one of these potential inputs as well as you plan your budget:

+ Service Asset & Configuration Management

+ Release & Deployment Management

+ Change Management

+ Knowledge Management

+ Event Management

+ Incident Management

+ Problem Management

+ Request Fulfillment

+ Access Management

+ Service Desk

+ Technical Management

+ Application Management

+ IT Operations Management

Whether you refer to your processes to help you with the budget or not, there are still some time-honored good practices that I have to share.

1. Your IT budget cannot be created in a vacuum. It requires alignment with your customers and collaborative inputs. These inputs come from supported business units, Service Management processes, and key members of your staff.

2. Be realistic. Fluffing your budget will lead to a lack of confidence in your budgeting capabilities; having a solid business case with real data will give you credibility and precision.

3. Keep a historical perspective on your ratios. These will allow you to benchmark against previous years and allow you to capture some very interesting trends in your accuracy.

4. Keep a lot of notes. Discussions that lead do budget decisions are often forgotten once the budgeting process is complete. Refer to your notes to help remind you of the reasons for certain items within your budget.

Good luck in your planning this year. I'm sure there are several other areas which might be helpful. Feel free to share your ideas!