This past weekend I sat down and did something I don’t usually do. I pulled out the old socket set, Phillips head screwdriver and the trusty can of RP7 and did blokey things by putting my old pushbike back together. This pushbike was purchased in 1985 and has had some pretty rough treatment in that time – only the kind of care and attention that comes from being completely neglected and lying in pieces under the house for four years. Fascinatingly, when I had finished with it, the bike actually worked a treat. I had the warm inner glow that only comes from knowing that you have put a mechanical thing back together (without any pieces left over, but that was mostly because I lost half the extra bits).
The bike cost me $150 in 1985, and in 2001 it still does exactly what it started out doing – with a few more scratches in the paintwork of course. I still get from A to B (and am pretty much able to stop when I want it to).
In that same time, I have had 13 computers – both personal and professional – and they each cost considerably more than $150.
There is nonetheless no doubt that those computers have earned – or saved – more than they cost. Information technology can be an ‘expensive’ thing. The proper definition of expensive, though, is not ‘that piece of software cost me $100,000′. The proper definition for expensive software is ‘it cost me $100,000 – and hasn’t saved me a penny since I put it in’. Information technology is valuable, and you must use it to make the work your business does more efficient. When you pay $100,000 for software that saves you $50,000 each year in operating costs, then that piece of information technology has value.
You no doubt currently have a number of projects in front of you – all requiring expenditure on information technology. The money that you spend on information technology is no different to the money that you spend on a new item of plant and equipment. You buy new plant and equipment if it saves you money in the long term. New technology expenditure should be held to the same standard. Do not spend the money without a justifiable business case. Spend the money if it will save you money in the long term.
Focus your energies in information technology on those areas that will save your business money. Expenditure that is appropriate for one business is unlikely to be appropriate for you. If your business is heavily dependent upon people and their time, then it is likely that expenditure on business management tools (e.g. management accounting systems, job management) will be the area of most benefit for you. The adage “time is money” has never been more true.