Please Stop Citing Lack of Budget as a Roadblock to Innovation

Figh For Budget

Fighting for budget? Try innovating instead.

It’s no surprise that “lack of available budget” was the barrier to innovation cited by 47% of U.S. respondents, and 29% of global respondents, in our Innovation Imperative study. But here’s a data point that’s both surprising and disturbing. Among IT executives worldwide, lack of budget was the number one innovation barrier cited. (For what it’s worth, business leaders said “no time to think” was their biggest barrier.)

Certainly budget constraints are a vexing problem. But when it comes to the intersection of budget and innovation, I think it’s largely a problem of perspective. When I talk to business leaders about innovation, they tell me there’s always budget to make money. It’s all about the ROI. There’s always an opportunity to go to the CEO and CFO and pitch an idea that aligns with strategic corporate goals, is backed by solid projections, and offers strong payback in new revenue and more profitability.

IT leadership is stuck in a decades-long cycle of cost-cutting and “doing more with less.” But business leaders are focused on growing revenue and opening new markets. IT leaders need to start thinking, talking and behaving the same way. If the strategic corporate goal is to open another 300 retail stores this year, how as an IT leader can you help achieve that?

Unfortunately, the budget committee is making decisions based on their perception of IT as delivering a cost-based service rather than providing strategic innovation. The lack of budget is a roadblock for many IT leaders, but it’s one that can be moved out of the way. IT leaders need to get ahead of the game and spend more time developing ways they can contribute to corporate goals and ensuring these ideas are communicated.

This isn’t my idea. This is what several highly innovative IT leaders who head up large, global enterprise shops have told me. I asked how they got budget for their projects. The answer was the same each time. They told me when they or their team came up with the ideas, it was obvious the projects could deliver measurable value to the business. They didn’t have to take it out of their existing budgets, and they never even considered that as an option. They made the case for new budget and won it, because the payback was there in black and white.

Can breaking the budget deadlock be so simple? These IT leaders say it can and have the additional budget and the innovative projects to prove it. There are big changes happening in enterprise technology, and a lot of them (perhaps even a majority) are “outside the data center” and clearly innovative. The time has never been better for IT to break away from being a cost center and become a strategic contributor to achieving corporate goals.


This post was originally posted at’s Innovation Today blog