Manager’s Notebook: Budgeting for an Information Development Team

tight-budget by Frankie Leon on Flckr.comUnderstanding and properly tracking the expenses and revenue for your Information Development team helps you contribute responsibly to the overall bottom line for your company. Consider the following areas when determining what to spend money on in your fiscal year.

Software, Hardware, and Tools

Budgeting for tools isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. Unless you’re planning a major tools switch, this budget category will mostly include funds for upgrades, or renewing subscriptions to cloud-based tools and support. However, depending on the size of your team, the cost could be substantial for, say, a FrameMaker upgrade. This category should include not only your authoring tool, but other paid tools such as graphics programs, screenshot software, or collaboration tools your team uses.

Hardware generally falls in this category too, if you manage your own hardware budget. Often, an IT organization (or another group) manages hardware centrally, from determining refresh cycles, to ordering, configuring and delivering hardware. You may be in a situation where hardware (and software) expenses are charged back to the department, rather purchasing directly, nonetheless you need to account for your hardware needs. Computers and their associated peripherals are the obvious items in this area, but don’t forget things like extra RAM, headsets, or other office equipment needed. For example, we use webcams in each of our major office locations so we can see each other during team meetings, and like anything else, they sometimes need replacing.

Professional Development

Include professional development in your budget planning—it provides a huge benefit to your team members, and ultimately to your company. If you are fortunate enough to have a team who is motivated to learn more, do more, and contribute more, they’re likely to ask about the chance to participate in company-paid professional development. Consider conference attendance, possible certifications, professional organization memberships, and online learning opportunities.

Unfortunately, when money is tight, professional development funds are often one of the first items to get cut in a budget. Even if you are not able to send your team members to a conference or pay for professional organization memberships, paying for a $50-100 webinar a couple of times a year for the group shows you’re interested in teaching the team new skills and that they’re important enough to spend the money on.

Outside Services

If you think your team will need temporary help for a time period, budgeting some contracting or consulting money can be critically important. If you don’t end up using it, great, but it’s always better to be prepared and have the money set aside just in case. Scenarios where outside services become important include the timeframes before a major product release (where resources are stretched to the limit), or implementation of a new internal system or process (that requires expertise you don’t have in-house).

Travel

Travel is not always possible, but can be a big help in achieving business objectives, during and after a merger, for example. We have some great technology now that helps us communicate easily with people around the world, but it’s hard to beat face-to-face. As a manager, if you can go visit your team members in other office locations around the world every few months or so, you can see some important benefits to team cohesion and morale. Another option is to bring as many team members as possible together for a few days of meetings or training.

Another travel area to consider is sending your team members to work with their remote project teams once or twice a year. And remember, any conference attendance out of town will require travel budget for transportation, hotel, and food.

Team Morale

Rewarding your team is essential to showing your appreciation for their hard work and maintaining a sense of engagement. You can acknowledge their contributions in many ways, most of which don’t have to be extravagant. Set aside money to take your team to lunch occasionally, or out for a fun activity like bowling or laser tag. Recognizing everyone’s birthdays with a card signed by the team or even a cake for all the birthdays that quarter are inexpensive ways to boost morale.

As a manager, you have duties that go outside the traditional bounds of developing information. Budgeting often gets lost in mix of scheduling and managing projects, and evaluating and developing your staff.  It too needs your attention to ensure your team can grow and continue to deliver.

Alyssa Fox

Alyssa Fox is Director of Information Development and Program Management at Micro Focus, and is based in Houston, Texas. Alyssa is a member of Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). She is also a senior member of Society for Technical Communication (STC) and is currently serving as the STC Vice President. Alyssa speaks at numerous international conferences about various management, agile, and technical communication topics. Find Alyssa on Twitter @afox98.

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