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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Alsup

Complete Guide to IT Budgeting for SMBs: Maximizing ROI in the Digital Age

In today's digital landscape, Information Technology (IT) plays a crucial role in the success and growth of Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs). However, budgeting for IT expenses can be a complex task for SMB owners and decision-makers. At Kosh Solutions we are often asked by business decision makers about how to budget for IT expenses and investments. So, we came up with this comprehensive guide to provide a complete understanding of IT budgeting for SMBs, helping them allocate resources effectively and maximize return on investment (ROI).

Table of Contents

Understanding the Importance of IT Budgeting

As we all know, IT has become the backbone of SMBs, driving productivity, efficiency, and innovation. However, without proper budgeting, SMBs risk overspending, underinvesting, or misallocating resources. An IT budget ensures that the necessary funds are allocated strategically to meet technology needs, support business objectives, and stay competitive in the market.

Determining the IT Budget

The determination of the IT budget involves considering several factors such as the company's financial capabilities, business goals, industry standards, and technology requirements. While there is no universal formula, a commonly used approach is allocating a percentage of gross income. As a general guideline, SMBs often allocate around 2-8% of their gross income to the IT budget, depending on industry norms and technology reliance.

This is where a conversation with your CIO, your technology partners, or a vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer) needs to happen to help guide a realistic budget. As part of our Managed IT Services, Kosh offers vCIO services.

Key Components of an IT Budget

To create an effective IT budget, it is crucial to consider various components that encompass the IT infrastructure and services. Here are the key components to include in your IT budget:

Hardware and Software

Investments in computer hardware, servers, networking equipment, and software licenses are essential for SMBs. Allocate a portion of the budget to acquire, maintain, and upgrade these assets to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. Kosh always recommends organizations to consider renting their hardware as a way to significantly reduce capital expenditures and have more predictable IT costs.

IT Services

SMBs often require external expertise for system administration, network management, cybersecurity, and technical support. Allocate a portion of the budget for outsourced IT services, ensuring reliable and specialized support when needed. This is what Kosh Solutions provides our customers!

Cloud Computing

Cloud services offer flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness for SMBs. Allocate a portion of the budget for cloud storage, software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscriptions, and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) usage, enabling seamless data access and collaboration. We find many smaller businesses are not allocating enough of their budget to move their IT architecture to the cloud and are missing out on lower costs and efficiency gains.

Data Security

Protecting sensitive business data is paramount. Allocate a portion of the budget for investments in security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, encryption tools, and employee training on cybersecurity best practices. We cannot beat this drum loud enough! We see it all too often when businesses come to us after they have been breached by a cyber-attack. And those are the lucky companies! Many small businesses do not come back after a full-blown cyber-attack.

IT Training

Ensure your employees have the necessary IT skills and knowledge. Allocate a portion of the budget for IT training programs to enhance employee proficiency in using technology effectively, maximizing productivity, and reducing potential risks. Many vendors provide training, so be sure to leverage those relationships to get the most out of your software and hardware.

Monitoring and Support

Monitoring tools, remote support services, system backups, and disaster recovery solutions are critical for ensuring smooth operations. Allocate a portion of the budget to maintain and enhance these essential components of IT infrastructure.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Set aside a portion of the budget for unforeseen IT expenses, including equipment repairs, software updates, and contingency funds. This ensures readiness for unexpected situations and minimizes disruptions to business operations.

Industry Benchmarks for IT Budgets

The percentage of gross income allocated to the IT budget varies across industries. Here is a table showcasing industry benchmarks:


​IT Budget as Percentage of Gross Income







Financial Services




Professional Services






Non-profit Organizations




These percentages are approximate ranges and can vary based on your business' specific circumstances and technology requirements. According to Deloitte, the average IT budget across all industries is 3.28%.

Keep in mind that larger budgets don't always mean better outcomes! An optimized and well-managed budget is more important than the dollar amount.

The CIO at Merck is tackling IT budgeting by breaking down the investments into three-time frames and target outcomes.

Time Frame

Next 18 months

18 to 36 months

36 to 48 months

Target Outcome

Operational improvements that drive service levels up and lower costs.

Investments aiming to drive revenue from customer activities.

Positioning for disruptive capabilities intended to drive revenue in 3 to 4 years.

It's interesting to note that businesses typically invest their IT budget into three areas:

  1. Business operations

  2. Incremental business change

  3. Business innovation

It may be useful to ensure your IT budget is at least hitting these three areas to some degree in order to keep up with competitors. According to Deloitte, on average businesses spend 16% of their IT budget on Business Innovation, 26% on Incremental Business Change, and 57% on Business Operations.

Calculating ROI on IT Investments

This is all good info but how do you know if your investments in IT are paying off? Calculating ROI helps measure the effectiveness and value generated by IT investments. This is typically not a quick and easy exercise, but it is important to inform strategic decision making. To calculate ROI on the IT portion of the budget, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the Cost of Investment:

    1. Add up the costs of the line items related to IT in the budget.

  2. Measure the Net Gain from Investment:

    1. Identify and quantify the benefits or gains achieved from the IT investments.

    2. Assign a monetary value to these gains, if possible, to calculate the net gain.

  3. Calculate the ROI:

    1. Divide the net gain from the investment by the cost of the investment.

    2. Multiply the result by 100 to express it as a percentage.

Regularly tracking and reassessing the ROI of IT investments helps SMB owners make informed decisions, prioritize initiatives, and ensure efficient resource allocation.

FAQs about IT Budgeting for SMBs

FAQ 1: What percentage of gross income should be allocated to the IT budget?

The percentage of gross income allocated to the IT budget can vary based on the industry and specific business needs. As a general guideline, SMBs often allocate around 2-8% of their gross income to the IT budget.

FAQ 2: How do I calculate ROI on my IT investment?

To calculate ROI on your IT investment, determine the cost of investment (IT expenses) and measure the net gain from the investment (benefits achieved). Divide the net gain by the cost of the investment, then multiply by 100 to express it as a percentage. Easier said than done! This task takes a lot of thought to execute properly.

FAQ 3: What factors should be considered when determining the IT budget?

When determining the IT budget, consider factors such as the company's financial capabilities, business goals, technology requirements, industry benchmarks, and the need for innovation and security.

FAQ 4: Can you provide examples of IT budgets for SMBs?

Here's an example of an SMB with a $50,000 IT budget, allocating 4% of its gross income:

  • Hardware and Software: $20,000

  • IT Services: $10,000

  • Cloud Computing: $6,000

  • Data Security: $4,000

  • IT Training: $2,000

  • Monitoring and Support: $5,000

  • Miscellaneous Expenses: $3,000

FAQ 5: How often should the IT budget be reviewed and adjusted?

The IT budget should be reviewed and adjusted annually or when there are significant changes in the business environment, technology landscape, or business goals. Regular monitoring helps ensure the budget remains aligned with the organization's evolving needs.

FAQ 6: What are the risks of underinvesting in IT?

Underinvesting in IT can lead to outdated technology, reduced efficiency, security vulnerabilities, limited innovation, and loss of competitive advantage. It's crucial to allocate sufficient resources to meet the organization's technology needs and drive growth.

Key Take-Aways For IT Budgeting

  1. Larger budgets don't always mean better. Prioritize optimized over dollar amount.

  2. Benchmark spending is useful, but ultimately it is up to the specific strategies and needs of your business that will determine your IT budget.

  3. Track your IT budget's ROI

  4. Take "portfolio" approach to your spending. Like a stock portfolio, some investments will deliver outstanding results, while others will be laggards. Some investments may be safe near-term operational investments while other may be long-term disruptive investments that entail more risk and reward.

Proper IT budgeting is vital for SMBs aiming to leverage technology effectively and achieve their business objectives. By considering industry benchmarks, breaking down the IT budget into key components, and calculating ROI on IT investments, SMB owners can make informed decisions, optimize resource allocation, and stay competitive in the digital age.

Remember, IT budgeting is not a one-time task. It requires regular review, adjustment, and alignment with business goals to ensure optimal utilization of resources and sustained growth in the dynamic technology landscape.


Disclaimer The information contained in this communication is intended for limited use for informational purposes only. It is not considered professional advice, and instead, is general information that may or may not apply to specific situations. Each case is unique and should be evaluated on its own by a professional qualified to provide advice specifically intended to protect your individual situation. Kosh is not liable for improper use of this information.


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