What to do with Zero Budget

In most of the companies I have worked for, there is a surprising lack of budget for tools that would make it easier to do business.  Getting the crowbar out to upgrade to a higher version of Visual Studio, or getting an automation tool that will allow you to test more efficiently is sometimes a huge challenge.  I’ve worked with people who have been on board with upgrades, some who didn’t see the need for it and yet expected you to milk 5 more years out of VSS or something similar.

So how do you get people to set aside budget when there isn’t any?

I’ve had some luck in prior jobs, but it’s mostly been with taking some time outside of work hours to either set up a prototype on my own, or build a proof of concept.  Curious to see what  you have found.

Some suggestions (that I am taking myself):

  • PowerBI for a dashboard replacement.  It’s free, it’s fairly easy to set up, and you can pull from multiple sources and use the PowerQuery interface to tie everything up neatly so you can show pretty cool stuff.
  • Build  your own DW.  I’m in the process of building a fairly simple Datawarehouse using SQLExpress and some data I’ve put together in excel spreadsheets.  The SQL Server Data Tools interface is a free shell of Visual Studio that allows you to use SSIS, SSRS, and SSAS.
  • Get fancy/creative with excel.  Have queries that people repeatedly ask for but no developer resource to build it for you?  Use the SQL access in excel to set stuff up.
  • Download demo versions of tools and apply them IN A TEST ENVIRONMENT.  This may sound silly, but the best place to test the capability of something is not in prod.  If you can pull it all local and have it just on your machine, even better.
  • Talk to others about how they have solved problems/inefficiencies.

I will put a warning out there for you.  Be careful of what you create and share.  I’ve had a few situations where something I’ve slapped together to show someone a problem or an efficiency gets sent to a client because the account people are excited that it becomes a solution that no one has vetted before sending.

One of the things I try to do is keep it local until someone asks for a copy, which I follow up with “What’s the plan for it” so you can talk about testing of the solution or the audience, etc.