Business Tech: Spending Down MultiValue

It's the Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Not every business ends their fiscal year in December, but a lot of them do. End of year means end of year spending down. Likewise, it usually means a lean budget for January and February. I've been thinking a lot about my spend down. Let's talk about yours.

Outside Insight

The economy has made a lot of talent available for short term assignment. Strategic hiring of consultants has gotten a lot of positive results. Look at your bottlenecks and think about surgical consulting strikes. The eighty-twenty rule — eighty percent of the project takes eighty percent of the time, the remaining twenty percent takes the other eighty percent of the time — comes from most of us being good at most of the job all of the time. Find the part you don't do as well: don't get stuck, farm it out.

For example, I have people I call in to review code and fix it or, perhaps, speed it up. Hiring them to write it is outside of my budget — besides, writing code is something we're are good at. Hiring them to tweak has served me well. Likewise, others have hired me as a fixer. So long as the consultant's "that's easy" list includes your "that's hard" list, the match is a good one.

Never Heard of It

People who don't work in IT/MIS often don't know what we can and can't do. Software guys are assumed to be hardware experts. Hardware guys are expected to be security experts. If you are a consultant, the assumptions are bigger because the audience is more diverse. The spend down is a great time to get training on the next big thing that your company assumes you already know.

Look at the upcoming projects. If you don't know what's coming, it might be a good time to poll your internal customers. There will always be surprises, but we can get ahead of some of the issues.

And the Score is Windows 7, Mac 10, iOS 5, and Android 4

Training isn't just about new-to-you technology. The tech you already use is moving forward at a frightening pace. For those who aren't MultiValue couch potatoes, part of the spend down might go for training. I have had weeks where I've worked in Delphi, Java, PHP, Javascript, and BASIC all in the same day. There is always something I need to know or need to know better.

Let's not forget our core technology. Every MultiValue brand has a way to the web, a way to GUI, and any number of other improvements. How many of us know all the offerings? Having the vendors add this great new stuff is pointless unless we take advantage of it. Here's a zero dollar way to get started: go to your vendor's site and click every link that seems unfamiliar. You might well be surprised how many links you will find.

Soft? Where?

While we are getting all that training, it might be nice to actually buy the software we are learning to use. Some of our tech is free, some of our tech costs. My job has required me to have access design and layout software, not just application software. PHP is just a download away, but Serif or Adobe expect to be paid before you get their software.

For most of us, the green screen is gone. In it's place is the browser, the smart phone, the laptop, the tablet... You don't need me to provide the litany of the new. All of that requires us to have the tools to dress our projects in style.

Along with software purchasing there may be other fees. Some of us have joined professional associations to get the support we need. Some of us pay developer fees. Think about all of the parts while you have the money at hand. It will be harder after New Year's.

Little Iron

It is easy to focus on software. We still need switches, wires, hubs, and hardware to run our software. Everything we buy needs a rack, a desk, or some other place to sit. Before we apportion all the cash to training, consulting, and software, we need to think about the physical infrastructure.

Every year, I spend down on domain names, outside hosting, new laptops, and other structural elements. Doing it now saves me from dealing with the bills when money is tighter.

Even if you don't develop for smart phones, this might be the time to upgrade yours. We can't do our job if we can't keep up with calls, e-mail, and every other way we get project requests and updates. I even have one client who, I kid you not, prefers to do everything by text message.

Money for Nothing

Looking back, we can all see spending that didn't pan out. That isn't an IT thing, its an everyone thing. In planning this spend down, we need to look at where we have gotten bang for the buck in the past. Sometimes, as we review our lesser return on investment, we may find situations where the problem was that we didn't spend enough.

End of year may give us a relatively freer wallet, but it is still a limited amount. We have to use it wisely. One of the perks of wise spending is that ability to document your wins when asking for your new budget. Let's all position ourselves for a happy New Year.


Charles Barouch is the CTO of HDWP, Inc. He is also a regular contributor to International Spectrum Magazine, a former Associate Editor for both Database Trends and for Gateways Magazine, a former distance learning Instructor for CALC. He is presently the Past President of the U2UG. Mr. Barouch has presented technology and business topics in front of hundreds of companies, in a wide range of product and service categories. He is available for on-site speaking and consulting engagements in and out of the United States.

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Nov/Dec 2011