Get the Most Bang for Your Budget This Year

The IT budget process last year quickly turned from an optimistic "We'd better buy it, or we'll get beat" to the pessimistic "Just say no" method of handling budget requests.

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The IT budget process last year quickly turned from an optimistic "Wed better buy it, or well get beat" to the pessimistic "Just say no" method of handling budget requests. Now, with the new year starting and corporate wallets opening up a bit, the question of how to get the most for your IT dollar is the top discussion point on the agenda.

For one approach, see Cheryl Balians article on IT budgets. As she notes in her article, the cost cutting that took place last year too often cut not only the nice-to-have investments but also the needed projects. In the new IT budget world order, as Balian notes, there are three fundamental budget categories around which IT budgets should be built: running the business, growing the business and transforming the business. Those three priorities dovetail with the top editorial topics we address this week.

Running the business in todays world often translates into running a secure IT operation. Security has lots of definitions and even more products championing an easy solution. There are no easy solutions. For the harried IT administrator trying to keep up with all the patches that always come too late, Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant tests the Configuresoft Security Update Manager. For the network administrator trying to monitor network traffic, Technical Analyst Francis Chu examines Top Layer Networks appliance for improving the performance of intrusion detection systems. While theres no one security answer, there are best products and practices. To get an idea of what can happen if your security is broached, read Dennis Fishers article on the latest bot attack on a credit card company.

Growing the business this year will mean finding ways to cut costs to allow those saved dollars to be reinvested for growth. In Matt Hicks article "Inside e-procurement", the reader gets an inside look at how Unilever is using leading-edge procurement systems to save an expected $1.58 billion in procurement costs. That type of saving is what was promised when terms such as the frictionless economy were coined several years ago. Between the concept and the payoff is a lot of nitty-gritty development work, but as Hicks article illustrates, the payoff is real.

Transforming the business offers the biggest benefit but entails the biggest risk. If you are intrigued by the promise of seamless Internet transactions based on the XML object description language, read Renee Boucher Fergusons Cover Story. The current state of XML is a long way from being a commonly accepted industry standard on which to base your business. And if you want to take an even longer view of the next big thing, Rob Fixmer, in this weeks InteractiveWeek section, dives into the promise of grid computing and finds there really was something to what the Infomaniacs were telling our readers when they championed computing fabrics back in 1998.