The Spiceworks Review: Budgets, clout and taking your career to the next level

Our monthly roundup of the best discussions on the online community, from creating next year’s budget to getting out of a career slump and celebrating small victories.

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Fall is a time of renewal, when work kicks into high gear after the long, lazy days of summer. And for many, it’s time to come up with your IT budget for next year. It may also have you thinking about how to make changes at work or get out of a career slump.

Spicehead Brandon, aka BetaOTech, says he’s been given four days to come up with his 2016 budget (never an ideal situation).

Jordack recommends starting your 2017 budget the moment you turn in your 2016 draft. “I turned in my draft a month ago, already started my notes for next year. Makes it easier to determine what’s needed and what’s important when [you] have [a year’s] worth of notes.”

Whatever you ask for, you’ll probably get some of it, but maybe not what you actually want, says Pit Stop. “You need to frame it in terms of value for the business. You need to be able to justify everything. The best way to do this is the worst-case scenario and associated costs with not having … then your manager/business owner/board can make a risk-based decision on following or ignoring your recommendations.” And if you still don’t get what you want, try reframing your proposal.

But realistically, how much clout do you really have with the C-suite, wonders Jeff Hays, who says he’s a “help desk idiot” first and vice-president of unified communications second, and has to run everything by his CIO/CFO. “I can’t just ‘make them do this,’” he says.

Brook Durant suggests that most people have more clout than they realize: “There’s a reason we’ve been hired to do the jobs that we are doing. … Yes, ultimately someone else might make the final decision but never assume that you have no or very little clout. Sometimes it’s just a matter of learning how and when to use it.”

And Bud Gallagher says you don’t need to be C-level to get clout — you need to learn how to speak to C-levels or approving managers and put things in terms they understand. Usually this means money. “Even better when you can present a solution as a cost savings that requires a little upfront investment, but pays off the investment in X time and then generates a cost savings afterwards of $Y per $TIME.”

It’s about identifying a need, writing a business case and providing the benefits to the business, says Rav Singh. “But use [a] lot of charts. C bods love a good chart.”

But maybe, after all this, you feel stuck in a rut and need to propel your career in a new direction. The Annoyed Admin offers suggestions on how to avoid a career dead end, from finding a mentor to learning what to learn.

“The world of IT is vast and always changing. Knowing what to learn can sometimes be just as difficult as actually learning it,” says The Annoyed Admin. Figure out what will help you most right now, whether it’s DNS, Exchange or VMware; then focus on what you need to get to the next level. And when you see an opportunity, seize it: “Whether your boss asks you to rack a server for the first time or implement a new VSAN cluster, take advantage of the opportunity.”

Another option is to go elsewhere, says Mike Ober — not easy, but sometimes it’s the only way to continue to grow, both personally and professionally. And Richard Muniz says you need to push the envelope once in a while and take a chance: “You just might learn something along the way.”

In IT, there’s a tendency to “commiserate over nonexistent budgets, end user shenanigans, superhuman expectations, security facepalms, and all the proposed projects C-levels refuse to see value in (and consequently refuse to pay for) despite the risks,” says Michael13190. That’s why he asked Spiceheads to share their IT moments of triumph — from projects that went off without a hitch to exceeding C-level expectations.

But just as important are those smaller, simpler wins. “Managed to go three whole days without printer issues of any form (even user questions on printing) in a 70+ employee environment,” says Rob Ray. “It was GLORIOUS!!!”

And Jess Padilla spent an entire week on-call — without a single call. “I kept checking my phone to make sure that (1) my volume was turned up and (2) I had reception. I still can’t believe it.”

As the season changes, it’s time to start thinking of ways to improve the business and budget for next year — but it’s also a time to reflect on those small wins and where you want your career to take you next.

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