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Justify My Lab

Testing labs have real costs and benefits; they're just difficult to quantify. Be prepared to make your pitch in terms that management can understand.

We interviewed IT managers from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies and government organizations to find out how they align their lab proposals with business goals.

The Hard Sell

Establishing a test facility is essentially an entrepreneurial experience: You're going out on a limb, doing something that can yield high returns or be a complete bust, and taking the chance that someone out there is just waiting to eat your lunch.

Furthermore, experience shows that some industries may be a harder sell than others. The manufacturing industry, for instance, tends to avoid investing in IT infrastructure that doesn't yield a concrete payback, says Ken Stewart, IT manager at BKI, a food service manufacturing company. Stewart has hit a brick wall trying to get funding to build a test facility. "As far as IT expenditures are concerned, labs typically fall to the bottom of the list," he says.

You'll have no guarantee of continued support once the lab is running, either. Ray Gauthier, IT specialist at the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has been able to procure lab equipment and build a test facility that mirrors his production network, but he constantly has to ward off "poachers" who want to use his lab gear.

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