Planning and budgeting for IT equipment

Lasa logo By Lasa Information Systems Team

Planning and budgeting for hardware and software is essential.

Although we are constantly reminded that the 'newest' technology is the fastest it does not mean having to replace all your equipment every 6 months. We know that technology is constantly being updated and this leads us to feeling pressured into have the latest and fastest computers. Personal expectations of technology, speed, latest software etc. are also a driving force for renewing the oldest machines as more and more staff have computers at home. However, decisions made in the organisation on software should be driven by the services you provide or plan to provide.

How to choose your IT equipment

When choosing what to buy:

  • Decide what you want to do
  • Choose the software to achieve that end
  • Buy the hardware to run the software

How to budget for IT

In your agency how has money been spent on IT before?

  • Ad-hoc fundraising when a new computer is needed?
  • As a way to use up under-spend at the end of the financial year?
  • Emergency replacement of broken equipment?
  • Accepting donations of old or recycled hardware and software?

A budget heading is the only way to manage the I.T. coming into the organisation. We are dependant on this technology and must allow for the financial implications as we do with our photocopiers, for example. The Management Committee should be involved with planning the purchasing of new PCs.

Ask yourselves:

  • Will I.T. be included as part of every fundraising application?
  • Can the cost be built into the core costs?
  • Is it possible for an I.T. specific project to be funded as a stand-alone development?

Creating a purchasing plan

Running an organisation does not require the most up to date equipment. However, what it does need is a firm plan for renewing the oldest equipment. This should happen before it becomes too costly to maintain when it breaks down, or when there is no longer training available for the software.

A purchasing plan will generally outline the anticipated renewal dates of the agency's computers together with the expected costs. In real terms PCs should be renewed every four to five years - this will safeguard the organisation from the software becoming obsolete and also ensure maintenance costs do not become more than the cost of a new machine. This plan will support decisions when money for new equipment becomes available.

To create a purchasing plan first make an inventory including:

  • The specification of each machine in the organisation
  • A list of software running on each machine
  • Manuals
  • Invoices for each machine with specific details of speed, capacity etc.
  • Any peripherals - such as printers and scanners
  • A list of serial numbers held in a secure place in case of damage, burglary etc.

You should then:

  • Know broadly the specification of each of your computers
  • Have a written record of the full specification of all your equipment and its warranty status
  • Know what software is installed on each of your computers
  • Check regularly for unlicensed software in use in your agency

Once the inventory has been produced it will be clearer which is the next piece of IT to be replaced.

Deciding what IT to buy and when are not decisions that happen in isolation. You should consider the needs and future direction of your organisation. Is the agency thinking of developing a new service in the next twelve months? What software and hardware will you need?

Your new purchase will also have to fit in with your existing IT set-up, especially if you have a network. Standardisation is key. Don't worry too much though, most PCs are standard and work in the same way even if they are from different suppliers.

When planning to purchase equipment ask yourself:

  • Do you have a purchasing procedure?
  • Is standardisation taken into account when buying new equipment?
  • Do you consider compatibility when buying new hardware?
  • How many of your computers are three years old or more?
  • Do you have an inventory of your equipment? For example hardware, software, peripherals etc.?
  • Are your computers networked?
  • Are existing PCs checked regularly for unlicensed software?

More information

For more information see the ICT Hub publications How To Cost and Fund ICT (PDF document 1.24 Mb) and Sources of Funding for ICT Projects and Initiatives (PDF document 122 Kb).

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