Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Empty Cost "Savings"

Examples of cost cutting that raise costs instead:

No company provided food on site: $5-10 per person per day v. paying your employees for 1-2 hours each day to eat lunch down the street.

Keeping hardware around past it's useful prime: boxes without enough RAM, hard drives without enough space, boxes without the pizzazz to allow an after-hours network game.  $1000/year per developer will cover this, and will improve employee retention, morale, and actually helps productivity (happy programmers are productive programmers).

Not hiring enough system administrators.  This forces developers to do it themselves, when you could easily hire a part-time grad student for peanuts to do things like backups and basic administration.


James Montebello
Monday, February 25, 2002

I worked for a company that I believe did genuinely care about its employees.  But we couldn't get them to pony up for a second PC for each of our group of automated testers, despite the fact that during development we would sit and watch scripts run for extended periods (once properly developed we tried to run them overnight).  They were concerned that giving us new stuff would make the developers want it as well.  Who knew where that slippery slope would end!

A well known one in the UK at one time was cutting the free newspapers in the cafeteria.  Not only was this a false economy (as multiple photocopies of the crossword were passed around), but it was a sure indicator that a company was in trouble.  I witnessed this first-hand at a major steel company, whose stock tanked shortly after this measure was introduced.

Paul Harris
Monday, February 25, 2002

My favorite is when people (sysadmins, programmers) are paid salaries, then told to work overtime.

Managers know the false economy in having people work overtime, but there's the quotas they have to meet.

Monday, February 25, 2002

> Managers know the false economy in having people work overtime.

Why is this a false economy? In the eyes of managers, salaried employees working overtime == FREE MONEY!!!!

Banana Fred
Monday, February 25, 2002

These items and many others have the same thing in common.  The company may make the expenditure if the benefits exceed the costs.  The obvious problem here being that the costs are easily quantifiable, but the benefits are not.

There is also the problem that the costs are immediate and, in some cases, the benefits are long term.  The only solution that the individual developer is likely to be able to implement is to find another employer with a more enlightened long term outlook and a culture of quality.

With the sys admin duties you may have a chance if you have a charge number on your time sheet.  If it's hidden in other work then you may be stuck with it until it takes large parts of a developers day.

Do any employers pay there people to take lunch breaks?  That usually on the employee's time isn't it?

Monday, February 25, 2002

I used to work for HP in the NetServer division in '96.  I was working with the Symantec PCAnywhere team in NY to deliver a component supporting Microsoft's OS called "New Technology".  At the time, that was a sleeping technology.  All of the developers had 4 year old PCs when we were selling Intel's top-of-the-line stuff.  Complaining to management that we didn't have the proper tool to do the job didn't do any good.  What, you can't do your job with the sticks and stones basics?

Hoang Do
Tuesday, February 26, 2002

  Why is this a false economy? In the eyes of managers, salaried employees working overtime == FREE MONEY!!!!

This is a false economy because in the eyes of reality, salaried employees working overtime = slippery slope that leads to:

1) Decreased productivity (both quality AND quantity)
2) Decrease morale
3) Turnover
4) Outright sabotage (worst case scenario)

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

In response to salaried employees' overtime = Free Money:

I once found myself in the position of being ordered to work 12 hour days for the duration of a project. 

Immediate result: first 12 hours of first 12-hour day spent trying to calm down my project team. 

Extra work done: minus 8 hours per team member.

Mid term result: After 3 weeks of this, started playing logic puzzles during downtime.  (Gee, if I left just because there was nothing to do, I wouldn't make my 12 hour days.  That'd be bad for morale.)  Average time: 54 minutes.  Following the project, I wanted to quantify my difference in capability, so I tried the same level of difficulty again.  Average time: 6 minutes.  So, 8 hours, versus 12 hours * 1/9 brain power.

Extra work done: minus 6 hours, 40 minutes per day

Long term result: I now work for a company which pays by the hour.  I believe most of the project members do, and none of us work for the original company.  That company no longer has any testers, any documentation experts, or any domain experts other than the company founder, and in one week lost 75% of its programmers.

Tell me that's cheap.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

don't talk to me about cost savings. i work on an intranet. nobody cares about making it cost effective & user friendly no matter what studies tell you.

seriously though, we have an employee cafeteria, and our building is in the middle of no where. 90% of us take our lunch back to our desk, and in some odd way it's a profit center for the company.

the psychological effect of being able to take lunch probably makes us more productive, and attracts better people. I once interviewed at a company that "worked a true 40 hour week" - 8:30 - 5:30 with one hour for lunch. Guess where I didn't take a job. Nevermind the fact that I work reglurly until 6 or 7 and probably put in over 40 hours, psychologically I don't.

Mark W
Wednesday, February 27, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home