HoldTime Is Money, But Tech Buyers Don't Always Act Like It

Ann All

Time is money. Like most cliches, people say it a lot without stopping to think about the meaning behind the words and acting accordingly.

If they really understood that time was money, technology buyers wouldn't focus so narrowly on a technology's price tag that they don't calculate its impact on employees' overall use of time.

That's the point Phil McKinney, VP and CTO of HP's Personal Systems Group, makes in a recent Forbes column. He offers a terrific illustration of how technology compares to other expenses in terms of total cost to an organization: A high-end workstation costs about 20 cents an hour, while office space goes for $2 an hour, and a knowledge worker costs $60 an hour. As McKinney writes: Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

He calls out three specific areas in which many companies could spend a little to save a lot:

  • Streamlining processes. McKinney suggests integrating process-approval steps into essential systems like e-mail. He notes he can approve all expenses and purchase-order requests via e-mail. So, he writes, "I can do it from my mobile phone -- and the big wheel can keep right on spinning." How much time/money would be lost if he had to fill out paperwork for those approvals?
  • Taking a more rational approach to security. Many organizations adopt a knee-jerk response to security, he writes, installing costly tools that make it tough to jump through the hoops and get any work done when outside the office. A better approach, he suggests, is offering easy remote access to the company's intranet. (That's the approach we use here at IT Business Edge.)
  • Sucking it up and investing in new technology instead of maintaining aging systems simply because they "still work."

All of these items suggest senior managers and IT staff need to communicate more frequently with front-line workers to better address their needs. Before you invest in a technology to improve business processes, find out which tasks people are getting hung up on and why. Ask them. Even better, go in the field to observe how people get their work done.

While simple oversight is a big part of this communication gap, there is a more calculated reason as well: Some managers/departments are willing to throw others under the bus so they look good. McKinney touches upon this:

... At dinner the other night one of my guests joked about his firm's collective gasp when management announced the rollout of a new expense-reporting system. The justification for the new technology: real savings to the organization. Translation: The finance department would get kudos for saving a few bucks while employees would end up torching more time submitting their reports.

Just last week, in a conversation with IT Business Edge VP Ken-Hardin, he told me he'd participated in some software development projects in which IT organizations reduced their development costs by consulting frequently with senior managers about software features, thus shifting their project management costs to another business area. Sometimes these kinds of shifts ultimately save companies lots of money. That's not always obvious up front, however, which just goes to show some time/cost ratios are tougher to calculate than others.

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