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CxOs: Here’s how to budget for success during your Security Service Edge (SSE) project

Make budgeting easier when it’s time to modernize your access infrastructure.

The air has a crispness to it, kids are back in school and the afternoon shadows are growing longer. For me, Fall has always been the season when the last revisions for projects and business as usual (BAU) budget requests were finalized. It was one of the last opportunities to dial in the plan of work for the upcoming year as well as align the projects with the critical financing which makes it all possible. If you are considering a Security Service Edge (SSE) project for 2023, here are some tips as you enter the final lap of budgeting season.  

Create the map

The most critical aspect is the scope. Implementing an SSE project is a journey. It’s not something you accomplish overnight or even a year. Often, these types of projects take multiple years. So, start with a phased plan.  Determine what your first phase is as well as the follow-on aspects of your journey.  Set guideposts and determine the schedule. Think in terms of 6 months. What do you want to accomplish in H1 and H2? What is the order? Understand which technologies in your portfolio will be impacted and the timing for each. Based on this, take inventory. Create a schedule to replace each item.  

Technology meet finance 

Once you have the list of technologies that the project will impact, attach them to a proposed schedule. Now it is time to work on the details. As simple as it may seem to replace one technology with another, unfortunately, it is not. Here’s where technology meets the real world of finance. Your roadmap for the journey must align with the interests of your finance department. And trust me, this is where projects and budgets get complex fast!! But keep in mind, by doing the hard work upfront, you will lower the inevitable amount of budget friction in your future. The key here is to take inventory of the technologies impacted and then align them with terms the finance team will understand. 

OpEx, CapEx, BAU….. Oh my!

You need to be aware of how each item is treated. Is it an OpEx or CapEx expense? Is there a “Business As Usual” (BAU) line item associated with it? If the item is CapEx based, is the item on the depreciation schedule? Is it 12 months into a 36 month depreciation schedule? If so, the finance team is going to frown upon your proposed replacement plan. As you will find out, much like Cloud, SSE tends to be weighted on the OpEx side of the coin. What this means is you will need to learn how to trade in CapEx investments for OpEx ones. For example, if are you proposing to move off a legacy firewall that is listed at $100K and depreciated on a 3-year schedule? If so, you will not be able to trade the amount dollar for dollar in year one. Rather, from the financial perspective, you will need to divide by three. Thus $100K becomes $33K for budgeting.  

Make friends and reduce the budget friction

If these terms and concepts are new to you, this is when you make fast friends with your resource on the finance team. As a technology leader, you must understand the complexities of how finance views technology investments. Ask questions. If you are not familiar with the terms finances is using, ask them for a lesson. The more you can speak their language, the more success you will have on your SSE journey. Once you get the finance side of the coin dialed in, you can determine if your project plan is possible or not. Based on this, revise your project plan and timelines.  

Eating the whale, one bite at a time

Next, break down the phases into digestible units. Now that you know where each item fits within the technology and finance puzzle, you can start putting your overall project together. Maybe during the financial analysis, it was determined a key VPN gateway was just purchased 18 months ago but the Secure Web Gateway (SWG) subscription is up for renewal in March. If so, it would be a good idea to pivot your project and tackle the SWG first and VPN in the following year. This will help you not only in the coming year but also create a multi-year story from both the finance and technology angles. The more you can help guide finance over 12, 24, and 36 months, the less time you will need to spend on constantly revising your budgets. You will quickly find out the finance team prefers the predictable path. At the end of the day, your job is to be the storyteller from both a technology and financial perspective.  

SSE value calculator

And to help you with your story, Axis has created an SSE Value Calculator. It allows you to take the puzzle pieces of your project and help guide you on your journey. The value calculator will help you to put the story together. It includes common inputs such as investments in services like SWG, VPN gateways, and CASB along with expected savings by transitioning from costly MPLS transport to Internet connectivity. You can also consider cost savings such as reduced operational overhead for managing SSE services vs traditional approaches. You can even run “what if” scenarios. The output will help guide you to success in both the technology area as well as the finance one too. It will also assist you in determining how to accomplish the best Return on Investment (ROI). Keep in mind, at the end of the day, all IT projects are business projects. The link is here –

If you have questions, feel free to reach out.  Hopefully, your Fall is full of fun and excitement!  

About the Author

John Spiegel
John Spiegel

Director of Strategy

John Spiegel has 25 years of experience running global networks and managing infrastructure. He is an industry pioneer in software defined networking (SDN) and software defined WANs (SD-WAN). John has spoken on the topic network transformation at industry conferences such as Gartner, InterOp, VMWorld, Palo Alto Networks Ignite as well as executive roundtable discussions. He has also been a customer advisor to companies like VMware, Palo Alto Networks and Cisco Systems. Disruptive startups have also leveraged John’s knowledge to bring products to market resulting in successful exits. When not helping companies on their journey to modernize and secure their networks, John can be found cycling on the backroads of Oregon.

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