Monday, September 09, 2013

Hidden Costs (A Work-Related Post)

So someone connected with me through LinkedIn and we started trading emails. We work in the same industry and he's a long-time donor to the charitable organization I work for, even made a trip internationally with his dad to see our work first-hand. Because he's part of the same industry, we travel in some of the same circles and it just so happens that the product he's selling extends functionality to a product we use... adds more firepower.

And because they're rolling out a new version of it and because he loves our work, he wants to set me up so we can try out the product for free. The problem is, we don't need it. That's only because I haven't tried it, he argues. But to look at it, I think it's clear enough what it does. You'd hope your product was self-explanatory. So I get what it does, but at the moment we don't have a need for it. Our margins (time, budget) are thin because we're trying to be good stewards of the resources our donors have given us.

Still, he presses. Just try it... we're making it available to you for free.

Only it's not free.

In his mind, it is free. He plugs in my team's information, the accounts are created and a flag is set so that no billing occurs. Follows up with me from time-to-time. Very little cost to him.

But there is a cost to me. To start, these emails going back and forth each night (I'm not using personal mail or social media at work) have a cost to me personally, trying to be respectful and nice and keep responding because he's a nice guy and a donor.

We would need to actually use it, learn how to make it work best for us, analyze the results
. He's going to want to know what we think, how well it worked, what we'd change. At some point he's going to want to know if it's enough value for us to consider paying for it. And if there was, I'm ultimately not the right target. We use the tool, we make the magic happen, but we don't dictate what magic happens when. So I'd be left selling the concept to someone else with the budget for such a new piece of technology. And then it would be something my team would need to continue to use going forward.

While he gets something out of it (market research, the feeling that he's doing something good, being helpful), he's not considering the total cost of ownership from the perspective of the recipient.

Perhaps this is why very few people give plants as birthday presents - you've just obligated the other person to work.
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