4 Tips for Budget Planning Season

Sample budget spreadsheet

For many of us, budget planning is looming. It’s a great opportunity to literally shape the future of your organization, but it can also be a tad overwhelming. Here are 4 tips to get you started serenely, and set you up for a positive outcome.

Set your scope

Many of my clients are busy doing all kinds of activities that are not really support: testing products before release (to avoid catastrophic problems, which makes sense in a way, but shields the QA team of responsibility); writing documentation (because they know more about customer use cases, but where is the product team), helping out in sales deals and POCs (because they have the technical knowledge, but why not ask the sales team to staff appropriately). All that consumes resources that may not be accounted for. Budget planning is a good time to renegotiate boundaries.

Create a bottom-up plan

You may well be handed a number and told to “make it work” but start with a data-driven staffing model. It will help you clarify your needs–and guide any cutting you will need to do.

  • How many customers/widgets/transactions are you expected to support? What do you expect the growth to be?
  • How many support events will they generate? (In other words, what’s your incident rate?)
  • How much effort is required per event? (That’s your effort time.)

With these three assumptions and a couple of ratios for staffing enablement/ops and managers, you’re done. Validate all your assumptions against current data, before moving to productivity gains.

Design for productivity gains

Get a little more efficient every year.

  • What can you do to increase product quality? This is not under your direct control but are you doing anything at all to influence changes? What more can you do? Leverage the extensive data you collect to help you.
  • How can you improve self-service? This is entirely under your control and includes: a better website, knowledge management, self-service tools, chatbots, etc.
  • How can you make assisted support more efficient by automating case distribution, promoting collaboration, monitoring customer sentiment? This is a combination of tools and processes.

Many changes will require investments: estimate what you will need.

Put on your business hat

Most support organizations are treated as cost centers and given a percentage of revenue as their budget. Others are run as profit centers based on support revenue.

  • Know the financial requirements for your team.
  • Can you get any leeway? For instance, a major product launch may justify a temporary increase in headcount.
  • Create justifications (for headcount, projects, tools) that match the financial requirements. For instance, don’t say that you will increase CSAT: figure out whether you can link your project to higher renewal rates.

Any tips you’d like to share? Comment on this post. (And drop me a note if you need help with any budget-planning issues.)