I'm doing a couple sessions on tech budgeting over the next month. While I've done workshops on library budgets for a number of years, this is a new "area of expertise" for me. I'd appreciate comments about this small list of tips and any strategies you use for stretching your technology dollars. I am sure there will be differences of opinion about some of these things - especially since open source is a religion as much as an economic model. I'll just make sure I'm wearing my iron underwear when I read the comments.
PDF of a draft of handouts can be found here.
Getting the most bang for your tech buck…
1. Limit the life of your equipment. We don’t touch any computer except to put it in recycling that is over 5 years old.
2. Re-purpose. We use machines until they stop working, but we spend no time, effort or money on keeping old machines going – they have to be placed in a non-mission critical areas. It’s a little embarrassing but we still have a kindergarten teacher using MECC programs on an AppleIIe in her classroom.
3. Get price quotes on EVERYTHING. Watch the legal requirements for getting bids. Over a certain amount, state law requires we go to formal bid. We get at least a couple quotes on everything, even if it is on a state contract. Takes little time and saves us a lot. Even with tried and true vendors, get quotes now and then just so they keep their pencils sharp.
4. Low cost without support is expensive. We are willing to pay a little more, especially for large systems when good support and warrantees come with the product. I like buying local for this reason to. It’s nice to have a near-by throat to choke if something goes wrong (and taxpayers like seeing money kept in the community.)
5. Should you use open source? I like open source as a philosophy, but it may not be as practical as one would want since it often requires a high level of maintenance by people with specialized skills. What you save in licenses is often spent many times over in labor costs.
6. Share your budget with anyone who asks. Total transparency in the budgeting and spending is required. Every expenditure should be documented, spent to budger, and you should be able to explain why the material or services were acquired. This means…
7. Explain it to me like I was 5 years old. This means that if you are a pointy-haired director, you need to understand on at least an operational level why buying that Level Seven switch or managed wireless transmitter or network management software is necessary.
8. Standardize. It’s easier to stock parts, maintain, cannibalize, and train when you have a single model of about anything to support. This is not always possible, but we strive for it.
9. Make sure all equipment purchases go through your department. Equipment we don’t order doesn’t get district services.
10. How do we best spend referendum funds (capital referendum vs. operating ie. on-going referendum)? Don’t take out a 20 year mortgage to by a car that only lasts 5 years. Unless there is an ongoing source of funds or there is a desperate need for a large influx of computers, don’t spend one time monies on stuff that has a short life span. Network upgrades and wiring – stuff that will last is a better use of these sorts of funds.
11. Should you lease? Leases lessen your overall buying power. It’s better to figure out a 5-year replacement plan if possible. Leases can trap you since you almost have to take a new one out when the old one expires since all the leased equipment is old. It also can commit you to future years where the funding may be less.
12. What’s an ASP? Application service providers who host and maintain a service for a district can be a real labor and cost savings. I also (perhaps mistakenly) assume these folks understand and are diligent about security, back-ups, upgrades etc.
Your tips? Links to good information on this topic?