Undertaking an IT project can be costly. While many business owners and project managers always aim to finish the project on time and on budget, unexpected issues happen in the process that could balloon the expenses. A smart approach to avoid this is to keep the budget slim from the get-go. This may seem like an easy thing to do but it is much harder to implement.
Most of the advice that exists on the internet points to going the cheap route: cheaper supplies, cheaper software, and cheaper infrastructure. While this will obviously reduce your cost, what I found is that it is not really helpful advice…especially if you want to keep your IT project competitive and cutting-edge.
So, are there other ways to reduce your IT costs without having to endure using substandard materials?
How to Minimize Costs in Your Next IT Project
Here are some actionable tips that I’ve tested to be effective over the years.
1. Prioritize Needs Over Wants
It is human nature to want the most advanced, most beautiful, or most high-tech product out there. Whether you’re buying a car, a washing machine, or purchasing software for your next IT project, the tendency is to choose the model with the best specifications you can afford. It is easy to get blinded by all of the bells and whistles especially if you’re faced with a seasoned salesperson. I’ve fallen victim to these traps quite a number of times already, thinking that I was getting my money’s worth by getting these add-ons.
What I realized, however, is that these added technology innovations that cost a lot of money end up being unused at the end of the project. Just because it falls under your budget does not necessarily mean you should go for it if you don’t actually need it. A good exercise is to ask yourself and your team members at least three times whether you really need something. If you receive a request for procuring an expensive device, carefully assess how this can benefit the project concretely.
2. Flexible Cloud Technology Use
Moving some or all of your data to the cloud is another obvious move when trying to reduce costs. Using cloud technology is much more practical than acquiring physical servers and other pieces of hardware for your project. Because of this, cloud computing has allowed smaller firms to become competitive when it comes to IT projects.
After trying different cloud service providers, one valuable lesson I gained is to take advantage of the flexible storage options offered by these companies. Avoid signing up for a yearly deal or a fixed storage plan “to save money” because this can be a disadvantage when the project is ongoing.
Keep in mind that IT projects are very dynamic and your requirements could change in a blink of an eye. When you’re stuck with a plan you don’t need anymore, this will cause you to lose more. Instead, go for a flexible plan that may cost you a little more but provides you more allowance to either upgrade, downgrade, or cancel the plan altogether with very little monetary consequences.
3. Minimize Unnecessary Costs
A couple of years ago, my team was working on an upgrade for one of our websites. Everything was going well and we finished the project on deadline. During the post-project evaluation, I was surprised to find out that we were spending too much on printing and paper costs. After checking the logs, it turns out that my staff was printing every single project update, emails, and anything printable without realizing that this is already affecting the overall project budget.
Most of the time, employees print documents mindlessly thinking that just because it is in the office, then this is a free service they can take advantage of. While it does not cost employees anything to print on paper, these types of costs can add up for the business owner. Minimize these unnecessary costs by encouraging your staff to use digital tools to collaborate. Aside from saving on costs, reducing paper usage can also help tackle environmental issues like deforestation and climate change. This is an important corporate social advocacy that your business can be a part of.
4. Outsource Specialists
Tech experts can be very expensive to hire. This forces many project managers to settle for mediocre employees because they cannot afford to match the salary expectations of first-rate tech help. Many years back, I made the mistake of hiring inexperienced staff, only to regret it in the end because projects took twice as long as they should have. But no matter how many times I tell myself not to do it again, I still ended up doing this more times than I can afford.
It was not until I bumped into one of my former employees, who happened to be a tech genius, that I discovered an alternative approach. This employee offered his services for one of my projects. Instead of hiring him as a full-time employee, he was a project hire. I hired him like I was hiring a third-party supplier but on a per project basis. At first glance, it may seem like it would be more expensive, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. Now, if I need a specialist to handle a particular task, I go the outsource route because it saves me time on training and hiring expenses. Most importantly, I get the results I need.
5. Hire Remote Staff
Overhead costs like office space rental, utility bills, and other support infrastructure related to in-house employees can be minimized if you consider hiring remote staff. Technology has made it possible for people to work together even if they are located in different parts of the globe. There are now many project management tools and innovations that can support this type of setup so your team members can communicate well even if you are not all in one room.
Hiring remote employees also reduces the likelihood of dealing with office politics and drama, allowing you to solely focus on the work at hand. This will mean better use of your time and resources. Another advantage is that you will not be limited to the available employees in your area. You’ll have a much bigger field to choose from.
6. Security is Key
One of the worst things that can happen in an IT project is to lose valuable work because of ransomware, malicious hacks, and other security issues. While I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this article to only go for the basic requirements and minimize unnecessary costs, security is something that you should never skimp on. The old cliché “better safe than sorry” is something that you should always keep in mind when running an IT project, whether big or small.
Even if you’re only a small company, implementing security measures on your project is very important. According to a study, 82% of small business owners think that they are not at risk of cyber-attacks. What many do not realize is that cyber criminals often target small and medium-sized companies because their security protocols are looser.
Go Smarter, Not Cheaper with Your IT Projects
When trying to reduce IT project costs, going the cheaper route is not always the best option. Adopting smarter strategies like the ones mentioned in this article can help in lowering your expenses without sacrificing the quality of your project output.
Richard Kao is the Sales Director of the UK-based office and tech solutions provider COS Sales. His day-to-day tasks involve managing client accounts, helping customers with queries, and directing his team to ensure the best results. He has extensive experience in the B2B world and lots of knowledge to share as a result. You can find him on Twitter @cos_sales.