Chuck's Code Blog

Assorted solutions and musings

Pondering a business question

I recently found a post on a forum entitled: “Will Microsoft Charge for the Email server exchange like Blackberry, are you willing to pay?”  I found the author’s statements and questions interesting:

Many of us have servers with which we get our email. As the business owner, I pay for the internet to the server, I pay for the server, then I pay for the software on the server and the electricity to the server, as well as the costs of administrating the server, not to mention the phones and the plans they are on. The cost of email is way more expensive than stamps and letters. I am not so sure we are saving the planet either.  This is not to mention the cost of the computer and the software on them, especially the OS Pro and Office suite containing the outlook needed to get the server mail client to work. None the less, It slays me to have to buy a blackerry server to boot and then pay monthly fees to have each phone be able to reliable get email without taking out the whole company becuase of some virus. After I looked at all the money i sink into Micrsofts products, and then products we need to have them run like virus software, I want to go back to mail. So the question I have is, are you going to charge me to get access to my business email client like blackberry, and will you give me the same quality or better than the Blackberry Exchange Server? First off, I don’t want to pay and I am considering dumping BES to save money in this economy. 30.00 per user adds up. Next, if you did, How much, and what are the expected maintinance costs.
– Posted by johnpauldaley

Though he raises a fundamentally valid point, I was curious that the answer was perhaps not as obvious as it would seem. 

As a business owner you must decide the return on investment (ROI) for the use of various tools and technologies. 

We must ask ourselves “Is the cost of doing business in this manner and this economy too much for us?”  If the answer is “Yes” then we need to review our business model with additional attention to the ROI for the various tools we are using.  Forget that it is digital technology-based tools we are discussing and think pencil and paper.  For instance, if we can’t afford pencils with erasers but we can afford many reams of paper, we might consider getting pencils without the erasers and spend more time rewriting on clean sheets of paper.  It’s not an ideal scenario, but running lean like this may get our business through the rough economy.

If your business model demands the use of these tools to remain profitable, then this is the cost of doing business.  If, however, your model does not require near real-time email push to a mobile platform for all of your employees – then drop it until your business can afford it again.

Further Observation

One more thing I’ve observed is that in some businesses models – tools are cheaper than people.  Up through the early 70’s it was not uncommon to have large pools of secretaries (see the television series “Mad Men”) then in the 80’s word processing was becoming so comparatively inexpensive that it was cheaper to by a couple of word processors, toss the typewriters, and reduce the staff to perhaps one secretary.  In that case we see the money or cost of business move from people to tools – could it cost less these days to make a partial move from tools to people?

Let’s revisit the scenario of the pencil and paper, if we were to change our model to no erasers and more paper, we must not allow ourselves to forget human effort as a cost of business.  The money we save by purchasing eraserless pencils may be offset or surpassed by the cost of our employee having to spend more time rewriting without edits.  Another argument can be made that our employee should not make mistakes – good luck with that one, as it’s a fundamental tenet that we will make mistakes.  Calculating business expenses based on that false premise is arrogant and at best, simply ignorant.  There are many quality control models that could be implemented, but at what cost? 

Almost every layer of business process requires additional oversight no matter how lean the process.  This oversight could be as simple as having the employee use a  process script and\or checlist or perhaps just a sticky note to billing indicating the process was completed, but it is still some form of governance that must be reviewed tracked and reported by someone or something.  Which brings us to the ultimate question each business should continue to ask:  “What does this business require in order to operate (in the black) and what is the most effective and inexpensive way to accomplish these requirements?”

Regards, Chuck
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