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Ask Slashdot: IT Spending In Engineering?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the what-you-need-is-a-bean-counter-flinger dept.

Businesses 146

An anonymous reader writes "I work in the engineering division at a large organization, about 2000 people total and about 900 in the engineering division. As I'm sure many institutions have been faced with recently, we are dealing with reduced budgets. We have a new director who has determined that the engineering division spends too much on 'IT' and has given us a goal of reducing IT spending by 50%. We currently spend about 8% of the total engineering budget on IT related purchases. About 10% of that (i.e. 0.8% of the total budget) is spent on what I consider traditional IT such as email, office automation software, etc.. The rest goes towards engineering related IT such as clusters for large computations, workstations for processing, better networks to handle the large data sets generated, data collection systems for testing facilities, etc.. My gut says that 8% is low compared to other engineering institutions. What do other engineering organizations spend on IT (traditional and engineering)? What strategy would you use to convince your management that 8% spending on IT is already very efficient?"

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Welcome to reality (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44147533)

Management exists to tell you what you need and how much you can have, not to ensure that you have what you really need to do your job efficiently.

Also, enforcing a budget cut will probably get someone promoted yet another level beyond his competence.

Re:Welcome to reality (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147549)

Is it racist to call you the Nigger Parrot?

Re:Welcome to reality (4, Insightful)

dubbreak (623656) | about a year ago | (#44147571)

This. New director says you spend too much. He most likely has nothing to back it up and doesn't care if anyone has facts or figures to back it up. It's a top down decision that you won't have any ability to change in any way shape or form. I'd suggest polishing up your resume.

My best guess is this is just the beginning. He'll gut R&D (to cut costs) ramp up sales on existing products/services to show some gains and make out with a nice bonus for him/herself. After a few years of no innovation and no new products the company will start falling behind the competition and either the company will collapse, or they'll suddenly try to "innovate" (i.e. play catch up after basically leveraging the company for some quick gains). That may or may not work, but either way the company will hemorrhage talent. Any talent left behind will be so stressed, bitter and tired that they won't be half as productive as they used to (they will have figuratively quit while they wait to find something better).

Re:Welcome to reality (1, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#44148585)

Exactly. These MBA morons are like the proverbial Railway exec who calculated that all the rolling stock of the company occupies just 10 miles. He declared all the remaining miles of track to be excess inventory and sold them for scrap. But sadly, he would have collected his bonus and would wrecking some other company by the time this company realizes what has been done to it.

Re:Welcome to reality (2)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44148975)

This is either funny or terrifying - I am not sure. There was once this fashion in management called down-sizing. I saw a bbc documentary about it (I am sure there was internet at the time but with mozaic as a browser - it was that far back in time) An example of that was Amtrack. I do not remember the details but what they claimed was that the costs reductions succeeded for few years with the result that at some point Amtract started having problems with drivers and locomotives. Sadly the reality of big organisations is that cutting the slack is needed from time to time and usually this does not happen without brutal surgeon that just cuts and cuts and cuts. If patient is relatively healthy and has some luck the lean company can actually be better than before. Some mangers understand the dynamics involved but majority is as may be expected bonus hunters with excel sheet as a main weapon.

Re:Welcome to reality (4, Insightful)

greenbird (859670) | about a year ago | (#44149471)

Sadly the reality of big organisations is that cutting the slack is needed from time to time and usually this does not happen without brutal surgeon that just cuts and cuts and cuts. If patient is relatively healthy and has some luck the lean company can actually be better than before.

That would be great if they actually cut the slack. From an MBA's perspective R&D and IT are slack. There are no black numbers to directly offset the red numbers therefore it is slack and can be cut. Now the bloated inefficient sales department, they have lots of black numbers so no cutting there. They get bonuses. Sales people continue to to oversell and lie about what can be delivered and then blame IT and R&D for not delivering what they told the sales people couldn't be delivered. Again from an MBA's perspective this is a problem in IT and R&D. The sales were there so the sales department did their job and got huge bonuses. But IT and R&D failed so we cut their salaries and lay them off.

That's how it works when the bean counters are in charge.

Re:Welcome to reality (4, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#44148933)

I'd suggest polishing up your resume.

Totally agreed about the rest of your post, and I think this line is the most important part of all. This company is doomed.

Re:Welcome to reality (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147643)

My experience over the last 15 as an engineer in various corporations -- MBA "idiots" (I use this term correctly) have a "cost cutting agenda" not to cut costs but to enhance their bonuses. Sad part is these cost costs go to their heads and makes me think there are alot of sociopaths in this grouping.

I worked in a few companies, and larger ones have larger idiots -- they moved to cut staff and replace them with unqualified staff overseas -- staff they had no control of or no way to vet them. Many of these people have lied about their qualifications & abilities.

What has happened is staff overseas say "yes" alot to management -- not what is needed to be heard and have spiraled such companies into the dirt.

What counts is the cost savings in the short term which results in great bonuses for the executive management -- by the time the truth be known what a failure these costs where -- they are on to another company doing the same damage -- problem is the "harvard business school mentality" that only short term profits count.

I believe that in 100-200 years -- the "harvard business school mentality" will be described as a bad idea especially with the fall of western civilizations.

Re:Welcome to reality (4, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44147777)

Indeed. I have seen this from the outside several times now. The problem with this mentality is that essential costs are hidden (loss of talent, loss of company expertise, loss of viable strategy, ... and that the sociopaths doing the damage are never held accountable for their crimes. Hence this goes on and on.

Re:Welcome to reality (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147865)


The MBA droid way of thinking brings immediate returns -- why pay someone $100k/year when a H-1B doesn't count for payroll tax, lets offshore this group of coders because the offshore company gave us a good deal, security has no ROI, so lets give it lip service... we can always call a consulting firm in case of emergency. After these go in, things start looking very rosy for the next quarter -- fewer headcount, the PHBs gain points for being axemen, etc.

Then the pain starts settling in. Deadlines start falling behind because the H-1B doesn't have the in-the-foxhole experience the veteran coder did. The product gets released. Customers start threatening lawsuits due to bugs found in the offshored code, so large parts have to be redone from scratch with security in mind. The people who made the product work in the first place have left, gone into zombie mode (their morale is so shitty that they are only there because employers rather hire someone working than unemployed.)

Then some enterprising blackhat sends the company a notice that he has found 20-30 bugs with the product, each allowing a remote attacker full admin access, and he wants paid seven digits per bug or else he will be releasing the exploits and proof of concept scripts onto the usual sites. Bugs which could have been easily avoided by people familiar with the product and who would have not made a program architect decision to have a service run as LocalSystem all the time that does all the work.

Then the losses come in. The company now has to either cut more people or else face shareholder lawsuits because they can't make next quarter's numbers.

Guess what? The MBA who did all this shit has moved on. He got out of there while his reputation was rosy leaving the carnage for someone else to clean up.

Welcome to business, US style.

The ironic thing, the Chinese companies I have worked with don't have this problem. If they are about to go ga-ga over focusing on making the quarterly numbers happy, their government will step in and stop it, that they are there for the long haul.

Re:Welcome to reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148093)

It is not just MBAs who indulge in this type of behaviour. An accountant I know worked for a company whose CEO was insistent on getting staff costs down so this guy shoved some staff costs over there --> and voila instant decrease in staff costs. When he went to academia his replacement had a different idea he increased costs elsewhere thereby lowering staff costs as a percentage.

Re:Welcome to reality (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44148229)

That's the real problem. The intense focus on meeting and/or exceeding the "numbers" for the current quarter. Particularly with the "numbers" being decided by a group of people with little actual knowledge of the business.

Re:Welcome to reality (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148253)

I once worked for VMware

Our team from Burlington found the largest number of bugs -- part of our educational background and abilities.

Management on the VP level got annoyed.

Instead of bringing up the people in other centers to our level they decimated the most talentented people who exposed the bugs. They downloaded the abilities of this centre to all those that existed worldwide -- i.e. poeple who work on kernel failure no longer know how to program thus cannot identify bugs. It seems the staff in Bangalore were upset at the number of bugs from Canada and threw up blocks. It is because they could not understand the bugs or the code.

To top it off VMware did not want people who could fix things -- everything was the customers fault and a control-alt-del would fix the problem -- a microsoift solution.


Glad to see XenServer go opensource -- it will level the playing field for incompetent management.

Lets see the next CEO cash out $60 million in share options in 2 days. Asshole -- memories of NorTel -- which most chinese companies have all their tech before Nortech went bankrupt.

WTF -- stop hiring chinse natiuonals -- they steal tech -- stop using chinese manufactured switches & routers -- use north amaerican tech BUT realize they may have chinese nationals working for them THUS compromized.

Wake up and smell the coffee

BTW all the VMware source was made public 2-3 years ago on a chinese server -- VMware has many chinese nationals working for them -- screw network intrusion -- why are you not looking at these people -- they are sons & daughters of the Communist party elete -- they are in North America because they were considered "loyal to the Chinse communist government" -- when I worked at VMware these chinse nationals laughed at me and were constantly rubbing into me why the communist system was better -- corporate policy promoted these people over white male personal -- what is wrong with this story? Nobody could answer if it was better -- why were they there -- i.e. access to source code.

Re:Welcome to reality (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44148997)

you mean (among other things) that vmWare products are not perfect, correct? I am deeply shocked......

Re:Welcome to reality (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44149233)

Starts out interesting, then gets into a racist rant...

That second half. (3, Insightful)

captaindynamo (1097461) | about a year ago | (#44149497)

It makes you question the validity of the first half.

Re:Welcome to reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148885)

have encountered people who think like Steve Jobs or Kil Um Jung -- we should go out to the parking lot and chant -- praise dear leader --scary

Re:Welcome to reality (5, Informative)

ka8zrt (1380339) | about a year ago | (#44148281)

Four words (which should be printed in blold letters, etc.) come to mind about similar situations
- CompuServe
- Lucent Bell Labs

While these were not IT spending per-say, in both cases, upper level management had their own inept vision of reality and agendas. The lower levels tried to get management to understand, management refused to listen, and the rest as they say is history. Sadly, folks at the upper levels of both of these were not entirely a bunch of idiots with sales, marketing, MBA or accounting folks. In the case of CompuServe, we were clearly tech heavy all the way to the top at the time. We just had management who had their own vision/plans, and could not be convinced of the fact that was was being done was wrong. In the other case, I don't remember how many of the upper level folks came from the more technical backgrounds, and how many were from backgrounds which were more in tune with the typical "business suit" mentality. But communications became more unidirectional, incorrect decisions were made, and these companies were gobbled up while many tech folks either left between the mind set in the work environment, or were later tossed overboard in management's attempts to lighten the load to keep from sinking (you don't throw those who are working on bailing out the ship overboard while you are sinking and expect to not sink).

At this point, the best course of action is to attempt to work your way up the ladder, convincing them with how your IT costs relate directly to making your company money. You don't say what sort of engineering firm, but tying those costs to directly to modeling stress/loads in an architecture engineering firm, the SQA of a software firm, etc... and then looking at options such continuing to use 3yr old (or what ever the figure is) computational systems, and tying the costs of doing so to what your firm does, listing all the pros/cons, and then presenting it up the ladder while addressing the issues raised at each level... While it does not guarantee success, but this is the way you win a battle like this. Lots of details, hard numbers, pros/cons, and facts. Periodically, each of you will be faced with making your own personal evaluations of stay/leave, but such is life. If you are lucky, you will either make it through the storm, or have a way off the ship which keeps you from swimming unexpectedly. If not, you just hope you can swim to shore or to be able to catch hold of a rope dangling off another ship. But regardless, such is life... not all ships can avoid the heavy weather, and you just hope that the ones you are on do not go down with you stuck onboard (and that those at the wheel are smart enough to take the advice of folks like you when you spot a storm off in the distance, or notice that the wind is coming at you from the wrong direction).

Good luck and may you never be faced with being on a ship where the captain refuses to point the bow off course as required by the weather you are in, and instead only listens to a navigator who continues to point you towards your next port (or worse, having to report through said navigator).

Re:Welcome to reality (-1, Flamebait)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#44149213)

While these were not IT spending per-say

IT spending for each speak? What the fuck is that supposed to mean, you ignorant gibbon?

Re:Welcome to reality (1)

mhotchin (791085) | about a year ago | (#44149327)

It's a minor mis-spelling of 'per se', you ignorant gibbon. Anyone with half a brain knows exactly what he's trying to say.

Re:Welcome to reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44149249)

I count 5 words?

Re:Welcome to reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148419)

Here is the thing. People assume they always know what they are doing and that others are incompetent. Sometimes its try and sometimes it's not. The fact remains that if it's not your money and company someone needs to set the limit somewhere and it should not be the person who wants to spend it - but the person who wants to spend it needs to be clever enough to know how to spend for what he/she needs. It's all a game that needs to be played.

Re:Welcome to reality (1)

anarcobra (1551067) | about a year ago | (#44148647)

I agree.
I think they could reduce IT spending even more.
From my detailed analysis of his company I can say that they should reduce IT spending to 10.
10 what, you ask? Just 10.

Re:Welcome to reality (2)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44149101)

Sometimes these big companies were just so big that they did not notice they were already dead and the cost cutting exercise just brought it to light of the day. Sometimes these companies were just too fat and some cutting is necessary. Sadly there are a lots of examples where companies fell victims of misguided cost control polices that were deployed and it could be seen bonus hunters enjoying their take most of the way (sometimes till the sad end). Usually the healthy companies enjoying bit of luck will come to senses and after bonuses are spent and enjoyed they fix the problem. Sometimes they do not.

I have a fine example: I have seen company refusing purchase of 10 HW pieces worth 500E each i.e. costs of 5kE. Purchase were not essential but would allow us to remove some workarounds, extend test coverage and make our work more efficient in a range I estimate as 2mh per engineer per month. We have say 20 test engineers which makes 40mh per month. Assuming costs of mh (with all the Zamunda testers) set to 50E/h that makes 2kE a month. Project time frame was 10months with second phase at least another half a year and maintenance support for at least 2-3years. Sometimes it is difficult to go to work knowing that corporate policy will not allow you to work efficiently yet you have quarterly sessions about improvements among other things of our cost structure. I do not know how can you respect people forcing you to do all this things. Smaller companies are not immune to the idiocy but at least there the guy who pays indeed does pay for his decisions. IN publicly own companies which I assume we discuss this is not the case and it is really disturbing to watch cost cutting exercise done for the bonus sake only.

Two questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147535)

Is the new director in engineering or IT and does your firm use just one predominant IT systems/infrastructure provider?

Re:Two questions (1, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a year ago | (#44147573)

Cutting the IT budget means one of two things - someone is looking for a promotion or the company is going bad.

In both cases it's time to look around for a new job.

Re:Two questions (4, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44147811)

Cutting the IT budget means one of two things - someone is looking for a promotion or the company is going bad.

Not necessarily. Even quite healthy companies are obsessed with cost cutting these days. The problem is, some management folks can't see that some costs are buying something of extreme value to the company. And they are cutting long term value for short term cost reduction

In both cases it's time to look around for a new job.

I take a different approach. Whenever I get higher level management who are out of their waters and inept at the helm, I just batten down the hatches and weather out the storm. They will soon be replaced. This method has never failed me, and I've been at my company for a long time. I've seen good executive move up . . . and bad ones getting the boot.

A younger colleague was asking me about an executive's plan of growth until 2015. The colleague was concerned that we could not reach this goal. I told him that the executive won't be around in 2015 anyway, and not to worry about it.

Re:Two questions (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year ago | (#44148443)

The problem is, some management folks can't see that some costs are buying something of extreme value to the company. And they are cutting long term value for short term cost reduction

That is a description of a company going bad. FYI, the result you have had to how you approach this issue is pure luck IMHO. The only places this works (and even then it is not failsafe) are in really huge companies that have a lot of inertia. But even they die if this type of behaviour keeps up.

Re:Two questions (4, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44148697)

I wouldn't leave anything up to luck. It's all calculated long term strategy. And it has worked for 28 years in the same company. Although, I have moved somewhere else in the company, when I decided that one area was doomed.

In a big, healthy company, it is inevitable that you will get "infected" with a bad manager somewhere, sometime. I see it like a body catching a cold. Instead of "inertia", I like to think of a company as having a "immune system" to combat colds. If the immune system is strong enough, it will be able to get rid of the "cold", the bad manager.

However, if the top level of management all gets the Ebola virus, the whole company is going to bleed to death with them. I won't stay around if that happens.

Come back in two years, and ask me if I am still working for the same company . . . and, more importantly, if I have the same middle management, or if I am in a different are of the company. I'm curious myself about that answer!

Presentation (5, Insightful)

denmarkw00t (892627) | about a year ago | (#44147539)

Put together a presentation to show your new director how you spend your monies - judging by your estimates, it's safe to say that you aren't quite sure how your department spends it's money. Put it in graphs, in a spreadsheet, make a chart, whatever you need to in order for your new director to understand where the budget goes. But, if you don't know yourself, you can't defend your stance. Itemize it and break it down, learn where all that $$$$ goes so you can prove that it goes somewhere worthwhile - if it doesn't, propose to cut it, and make changes where you can. You don't have to hit the 50% if you can convince him/her that 1) you aren't wasting money and 2) you can find places to help save money.

Like a good resume: don't just say what you do or how you do it, but explain why and how it helps the company. "We use these clusters for the larger computations" vs "We use these clusters for larger computations, which save us 30% on time and help boost productivity compared to when we didn't have them" yadda yadda.

Re:Presentation (1)

thorndt (814642) | about a year ago | (#44147639)

Wish I had mod points right now. I would rate this Insightful and Informative. Exactly the right thing to do.

Also (5, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#44147675)

Show what you'd lose at a 50% cut. Show him the things that they want to have, that would go away if they cut that much. Often people fail to appreciate what a budget is spent on and if it gets explained what they'll have to trade off they'll be more accommodating.

We may have to do just that where I work. The Dean has been fiddling with the budget again (he's really, really bad at budgeting) and has approved about 33% of our capital budget. He says he'll see if there's more money once the FY starts. Well if not, we are just going to have to make it clear what they don't get to have. Toner will be a big one, we spend almost a third of the budget on that because every professor just HAS to have their own personal printer (this isn't something we get to say no to). Well, those purchases will have to stop, departmental toner purchases only, and then only for academics and business needs. We'll identify the computer labs that are running Windows XP that cannot be upgraded to 7/8 that will need to be shut down next year when updates stop. There will be no new purchases of desktops for anyone unless their computer is just non-functional, no refresh. Etc, etc.

At that point, he'll likely decide that more budget is needed, and move money around (I haven't looked, but my suspicion is he's giving the advertising group more they are a black hole that always wants more). If not, we'll keep going on what we have, and services will be cut because there won't be the funds for it.

It can be very effective to not only show people what you give them, but what you won't be able to give them. A 50% cut is huge, that isn't the kind of thing where you "just make do with a little less" or "cut some minor things" that is where major services have to be cut out. Show him what those are. It is easy to say "I want a 50% cut," when you just look at the money side. When you see what you are going to lose, then it is not so easy.

Oh God! No! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147705)

Show what you'd lose at a 50% cut. Show him the things that they want to have, that would go away if they cut that much. Often people fail to appreciate what a budget is spent on and if it gets explained what they'll have to trade off they'll be more accommodating.

You are giving the person tooooo much credit!

Look it - I've been there - HIS boss is telling him to cut costs and HIS bonus is riding on it. Got it?


I'm gonna tell you right now what he'd say to you - "You need to work with less." with a look of he doesn't want to hear anything and if you don't like it, there's the door.



Toner? In a capital budget? (1)

Etherwalk (681268) | about a year ago | (#44147773)

The Dean has been fiddling with the budget again (he's really, really bad at budgeting) and has approved about 33% of our capital budget. He says he'll see if there's more money once the FY starts. Well if not, we are just going to have to make it clear what they don't get to have. Toner will be a big one, we spend almost a third of the budget ...

1) Why why WHY is toner part of a *capital* budget? That is like putting pencils in a capital budget. It's a basic office supply. Move it out of the capital budget, in the next budget cycle if you can't do it before. Because it's in capital, people will be much more inclined to believe that they can cut it or delay the expenditure, and it will be measured against the capital improvements (Rather than supplies) of other departments, and it will get more scrutiny.

2) If you haven't already, it's obviously worth standardizing to very few models of printers and finding toner from someplace reliable other than the manufacturer.

Re:Toner? In a capital budget? (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#44147929)

At the university there are only two kinds of budgets: capital and personnel. We have money for salaries, and money for equipment. Those are the categories. You may disagree with their method for doing it, but it is set by the regents and the state and it not something we control. Basically our personnel budget isn't being reduced, in fact there are small state mandated raises coming. However the equipment budget has only been 33% approved.

Personally I don't think toner should be an IT item, it should be in the same category as office supplies which is a department budget the business managers have. However, it is in the IT budget and that is that. We don't control it.

In terms of printers we have little control over that. We aren't like most IT shops where we can tell people what it is. We have to do what they want, by and large. Were it up to me, people wouldn't have personal printers, they'd use the large floor combo copier/printers which have much cheaper consumables on account of being so large. However they don't do that because:

1) They are lazy.

2) They use their printers for non-work related uses. We can audit the departmental stuff, not so for the personal stuff.

You have to remember that universities operate rather differently from companies.

Re:Toner? In a capital budget? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148259)

And let's not forget, in a university every professor is a BOSS.

Re:Toner? In a capital budget? (2)

ka8zrt (1380339) | about a year ago | (#44148415)

Not just that... different companies/universities work differently from others. For some universities, things like toner for those printers, servers, etc would come out at departmental/college level, with no real traceback to who is using what. If the prince professor of the department wants five servers and you are forced to take them out of your budget, server pool, etc. instead him or his team having to budget for them, chances are your boss is going to drop the pain on your shoulders as opposed to leave that prince professor screaming about how his vision is being thwarted. At others, the prince professor, like everyone else, submits budgets from which said items would come. Sure, it may just be a single line item by the time it reaches his boss or his boss's boss, but when that prince professor has spent $4000 on toner cartridges and either has to beg for more, or figure out where in his internal budget his next toner cartridges will be purchased...

Of course, right along with this is the stupidity of "if you don't spend it, you loose it next year" is pure southbound ejecta from a northbound male bovine. If partway through a year I realize that large expense will be needed next year, and I cut back on expenses somehow during the remainder of that year (maybe by using mass transit and staying at a much less expensive hotel instead of getting a room at the hotel where a conference is being held which was in my budget originally), I should not be penalized. But sadly, way too many universities, governmental agencies, etc. think that this should be the case.

Re:Toner? In a capital budget? (1)

bmcage (785177) | about a year ago | (#44148481)

However they don't do that because:

1) They are lazy.

2) They use their printers for non-work related uses. We can audit the departmental stuff, not so for the personal stuff.

You have to remember that universities operate rather differently from companies.

What nice view you have of us. We print on our own printer because:

1) the big printer is busy again printing some courses and you need it now

2) it's confidential

3) the big printer is too far or needs a special code against your department

Moreover, if you don't give them their printer or cartridge, it's not as if they don't have the budget to buy it on own costs. If your Dean cuts costs, just tell everyone the personal printer is on own expenses, many unis work like that. Uni's are not like companies because although cash flow comes from external parts, many profs have their own cash flows via grants, and because many unis are run by the profs. Could be different for you off course.

About personal stuff, I see a lot of it on the big copier/printer too, it's not like people around here are ashamed to do that. The copier has better print quality apparently.

Re:Toner? In a capital budget? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148655)

You appear to be alluding to the University of California. If so,

At the university there are only two kinds of budgets: capital and personnel. We have money for salaries, and money for equipment. Those are the categories. You may disagree with their method for doing it, but it is set by the regents and the state and it not something we control.

is not remotely true. That decision is made at the campus level with respect to internal accounting controls. Consumable materials and operating expenses are two additional budget lines available, and cost transfers through internal recharge are more than possible for departmental special requests. Your hands may be tied, but you should look to your AVC/Chancellor for the reason why, not the state, UCOP, or the Regents.

Re:Also (1)

spotvt01 (626574) | about a year ago | (#44147783)

Good discussion, but you might be forgetting something ... productivity and long term impacts. What will the long term costs be of not doing a tech refresh? How are the departments likely to respond (e.g. buy their own computers) and what are the costs to the institution? Inaction will inevitably have a cost.

Re:Also (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#44147907)

Maybe you should try and find solutions and make do with less? Maybe you should propose moving to GNU/Linux desktop instead of buying more Windows licenses? How about refilling toner cartridges rather than always buying new ones? Find a company to do that for you, it'll be cheaper than buying new cartridges.

Find ways to work around budget cuts.

Alternatives (1)

archer, the (887288) | about a year ago | (#44147731)

You may also want to show what alternatives cost, along with pros/cons. For instance, if you use Amazon cloud services, show what the costs would be to switch to two of Amazon's competitors and any performance improvements/losses that would occur. You'll either be able to show that Amazon is the best bang for the buck, or you'll find part of the savings you need.

Re:Presentation (3, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about a year ago | (#44147743)

Parent post is on the right track: there should be no such thing as a blanket "we must spend x% to keep up" but instead each expense should show "for $x on this expense, we gain $y to the bottom line." With this approach (provided y > x) then "we need to cut z%" goes away.

Re:Presentation (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about a year ago | (#44147749)

Not being cynical here (I agree in general) but from experience I would add that for those in *highly active and dynamic R&D IT environments* the time, effort, cost, and personal stress of presenting that data to a new boss makes it almost impossible without bringing in a workflow analyst, usually leading to a conclusion a year later that hopefully vindicates your first assurances to the new guy, or at least allows both of you to see where any issues might exist that require tuning. If that analyst can also offer feedback in real time it is an added win.

Re:Presentation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147821)

Step #1: Polish up your resume.
Step #2: Ask around about other jobs.
Step #3: Abandon ship before the cost cutting kills your company.
Step #4: Say you'll cut IT expenses by removing the job of director of IT, as management knows how to do it better.
Step #5: Offer to work as a consultant, part time, if desired, for your current salary X4, if needed, so they won't be left in the lurch.

Re:Presentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148573)

Are you using any software that costs money? Suggest them to use free alternatives instead. E.g. PostgreSQL instead of Oracle, Linux instead of Windows, etc. Management is usually really scared about open source and they might even forget the whole budget thing if they get scared enough. And if not... you solved the budget problem anyway.

Re:Presentation (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year ago | (#44148863)

Indeed, with just a few waves of the magic open source wand, money is saved, servers / software is transitioned, and nothing of importance is lost.

Allow me: "Hey...Bob, we've switched everyone over to that new email server you guys put together, but the guys in Sales / Marketing are complaining that Outlook won't sync properly with it." "Well Dave, that's because it doesn't support MS's proprietary extensions, etc. But they can use Thunderbird, which duplicates much of that functionality." "So, it doesn't work with Outlook, huh? Is this going to be a problem with the [insert software] we use to keep our field Sales / Marketing people and their phones / whatever synched? It is, isn't it?" "Well, we can replace those apps as well..."

Open source is fine, but it's not magic...and people saying "Hey, just switch" are forgetting that there is, at the very least, a one time cost associated with that switch. I say at the very least, because now you're responsible for many of your own softwares...which means changing things around a bit.

Only Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147545)

If there is no way to actually reduce the budget, quit. It's a better way to go then watch as the company fails.

Metrics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147569)

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. What sort of metrics do you have?

Re:Metrics? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44147761)

There are things where no good metrics exist. This seems to be one of them. In fact, most "metrics" used in business today do not deserve the name, they are so bad.

Re:Metrics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148283)

totally agreed, most of the bussiness "metrics" are not transitive (a>b & b>c -> a>c) , symmetric (a>b->b<a) and distributive (a*(b+c)=a*b+a*c) , they are not mathematically sound.

Re:Metrics? (3, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44148955)

Not only that, they are not factually sound, because they typically ignore critical things and make the bean-counters think they understand what is going on, when they in fact have no clue. Understanding your business is not optional for a manager, it is mandatory. No available metric can replace it.But you have to have true understanding of the real word to see that, hence the MBAs cannot.

Re:Metrics? (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year ago | (#44148891)

Indeed. "Reduce 50%" doesn't give much information, more of a general guideline, unless someone likes magic; and it also speaks of someone who is issuing orders with zero knowledge of the damage they will cause. A smarter approach would have been "Could you review our current contracts with vendors, and see if we couldn't renegotiate some of them, or find new vendors for the same items, albeit at a lower cost? No sense paying $75 / CAL, when we can get them for $50 / CAL from someone else. Should be we paying $500 / license for VS 2012 Professional, when we can get VS 2012 Premium for $250 / license? And who decided that we were going to pay the OEMs to install an extra 4GB of RAM in each of the new workstations for $200 per machine?"

Identify and present options for reducing budget (5, Insightful)

anegg (1390659) | about a year ago | (#44147597)

I think I good approach would be to identify and present options to management for reducing that 8% down to 4%. Done honestly, recommending eliminating waste and increasing productivity of higher-priority services, and recommending the elimination of lower priority services altogether, this will give management an understanding of the cost to the organization of reducing the IT budget as requested. It is then up to management to decide whether they want to proceed.

Approaches that involve trying to tell management that they are wrong, or stupid, or don't know what they are doing aren't likely to go over well with management unless you can identify some factor that management isn't considering (yet). Unless one is in management, its not one's job to make those decisions. It is one's job to provide information to management so that they can make informed decisions.

Re:Identify and present options for reducing budge (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a year ago | (#44147851)

The new guy's just messing with them.

He has come into a new organisation and needs to find out who's who. He needs to identify the competent managers (AKA threats), the lazy ones, and the idiots. A good way to do that is to drop a problem on the organisation, then sit back and see how it plays out. It's more of an exercise in office dynamics than a budgetary cut.

What the OP needs to do is adopt a similar position. See which teams and departments come out of this change ahead of the game and which ones are the losers. Then make sure he nails his colours to the right mast and wait for the next step up the career ladder.

Re:Identify and present options for reducing budge (1)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | about a year ago | (#44148355)

I would mod you up (except for the stupid mod system that means I never have mod points when I want to mod).

Sadly this is "business" 21st century style ~ 50% politics, 10% luck, 10% corruption, 30% actual work. Many failing companies could be turned around in short order by removing the top heavy bonus culture for a more equitable system (e.g. look at Germany for a viable model) with all the long term benefits that brings but in cultures where next quarters earnings report matters more than whether the company will still be in business in 10 years, thats never going to happen.

Whiner (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147601)

Rather than waste time looking for validation that the status quo is correct why don't you ask others for suggestions of ways to limit your spending? What services do you use that could be outsourced? Rather than build your cluster can you use systems from HE or Amazon? What other changes could be made?

If you do run your own in-house cluster can you sell the downtime?

Get creative trying to find a solution. Or, get creative on your resume.

Re:Whiner (2)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44147841)

You do realize that outsourcing at this size is very expensive, do you? Probably not. Outsourcing at this size cannot cut cost and provide the same level of quality, because the additional layer of communication actually increases cost. Hence outsourcing will either be more expensive or massively reduce quality.

I have seen that several times. Jobs that were critical would before be done by two experiences, senior engineers to make sure they would be done right. After outsourcing, it was suddenly one junior person, that in addition did not understand the problem.

That is what outsourcing really does: Give you massively worse quality, but hide the fact. For a time.

Re:Whiner (3, Insightful)

The Second Horseman (121958) | about a year ago | (#44147959)

Outsourcing: "We Cut Corners, So You Don't Have To!"

That's why management likes it - they can ink a deal, have some SLAs in there for a few critical things, and cut the budget overnight. Sure, the provider doesn't actually have interests that align with your organization's, and after a year or two - when you've had to pay them extra to do everything that your in-house people would have just done - it'll end up costing more per year, and maybe the firm is actually cutting corners in a way that would screw your business if something goes wrong. But senior management has deniability!

It's the same thing that leads clothing companies to contract with a supplier that contracts with dangerous factories in places like Bangladesh. A few steps removed, and it's not your fault that hundreds of people died in a fire or building collapse. How were you to know?

Re:Whiner (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about a year ago | (#44148145)

How in the world does anyone, anywhere recommend using HE or Amazon cloud for engineering work? No, seriously, how? At an absolute minimum you just gave out all your company's models, algorithms, and computational analysis programs to an outside company. At worst, those files are accessible by your direct competitors due to lax security at HE or Amazon. You just gave away all the years of engineering hours it took to create those programs and models.

move them from IT to other engineering costs.. (5, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44147603)

seriously, just start labeling your clusters and CAD sw purchases and such as plain engineering costs and not IT.

start only counting the generic information technology expenses as IT - email and word processing...
the percentages don't really compare between companies that well - if you were to compare against a firm that doesn't need clusters for engineering calculations for example...

of course the "right" thing to do would be to get the director to magically understand that you have plenty of engineering costs bundled up with the it budget.

Re:move them from IT to other engineering costs.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148037)

seriously, just start labeling your clusters and CAD sw purchases and such as plain engineering costs and not IT.

start only counting the generic information technology expenses as IT - email and word processing...
the percentages don't really compare between companies that well - if you were to compare against a firm that doesn't need clusters for engineering calculations for example...

of course the "right" thing to do would be to get the director to magically understand that you have plenty of engineering costs bundled up with the it budget.


And there's nothing dishonest about this, it's just how consolidated IT works, we pay for things if the whole company uses it or not.

Get folks from accounting involved to see if there are better ways to attribute costs.

Otherwise a compute cluster looks like a mighty fine place to start chopping because it's coming from the wrong budget.

Re:move them from IT to other engineering costs.. (1)

flabbergast (620919) | about a year ago | (#44149543)

This was my first thought as well. I'm surprised clusters and software goes under IT costs rather than engineering cost. MATLAB/Mathematica/SolidWorks are not an IT solution rather an engineering cost.

It's all about the business case (1)

ziggy_az (40281) | about a year ago | (#44147645)

Make a strong business case to support the budget levels you actually need. It may be that 10% or even 20% reduction isn't a bad idea. If you can't support your "needs" with a business case, you don't need it.

a resignation letter is the best strategy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147653)

But to save paper costs, just duck your head into his office on the way out and tell him to fuck off.

Re:a resignation letter is the best strategy. (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44147753)

I don't agree.The resignation letter is a smart move, but don't be honest about the reasons, fabulate something about new opportunities or the like, so he cannot give you the shaft for telling him the truth, namely that he is incompetent.

Know Value (1)

Saxerman (253676) | about a year ago | (#44147657)

As much as I would never want to see any of those presentation slides or spreadsheets with all the reasons why you are doing as well as can be expected, I would still expect you to be able to put such things together in some sort of reasonable business argument. But I suspect that it's not your 'gut' telling you that everything is fine, that's ignorance. I certainly understand the perils upper management meddling in affairs of which they know nothing, but I also understand middle management resting on their laurels and thinking they're doing 'just fine' without any way to try and judge that metric.

Getting a baseline on what similar departments might be spending can sometimes be helpful. But your goal shouldn't just be to find some metrics by which you compare favorably to the competition and judge that everything is fine. Every time you have to sign off on a purchase order for new hardware or renew a license for software you should be asking questions about value. Change by itself is never without risks, so the mere disruption of existing workflows might be reason enough not to switch to some alternative, even what that alternative is 'clearly' better.

You should be able to make your case for all your spending, such as why it's needed and why it's the best choice for your business. It doesn't always boil down to easy numbers for the bean counters, but at least be able to put on a good show.

You may be missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147661)

He says: Reduce spending 50%

You say: ... but IT capitol purchases are only 8%

He may not be talking about capitol purchases ...

Re:You may be missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147677)

Ack capital

How many separate clusters do you need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147701)

Or in other words, there is bound to be some leeway in consolidating clusters and organising jobs and so on. And there's software around to do it.

It has long been standard practice to get your developers, and I'd imagine your engineers too, the latest hardware just so they can work "efficiently" (altough unaccountably still on operating systems that treat the user like a child and generally hold him back, but I digress). This has all sorts of side effects, including leaving considerable headroom idling you could be using for computation instead.

The peecee paradigm also implies the idea that if not each developer, then each group would like their own little cluster. Compare supers, that'll run jobs for many people, groups, even companies. Or mainframes. Things built to run at 99% all the time. Consolidation, given proper management, can perhaps unlock some savings.

For clusters, you need clustering and job management softare. (I won't recommend the outfit that sells exactly that in the Netherlands because they use PR people (in the UK) for their HR, I kid you not, and it went downhill from there, but there is at least another in Moscow, silly valley will have at least a few, and then there's academia.)

Whether you can squeeze out the overage and make it useful is something else again. If it turns out that's more expensive than simply throwing more hardware at the problem, well... then you will at least have an argument with pretty pictures and cash figures to throw back at the director, no?

I mean, hey, you're an engineer, put numbers on the consequences already.

The MBA plague at work (3, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44147737)

The problem is that you need to convince them. If this person was competent, he would already know what the budget is spent on and that it is mostly not spent on traditional IT. You can try to make a cost inventory and show that. With luck this idiot will realize he is out of his depth with regard to the non-traditional spendings and that the traditional spendings are pretty low. If that does not work, I recommend finding an employer who dose not put cretins into directorial positions. Also remember that cutting necessary IT spendings (as this guy is about to do) will make working conditions a lot worse and people will start to leave, the best and brightest first. If that happens, the days of your company are numbered.

Like the Dumb Blonde CEO at Yahoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147791)

banning telecommunting.

What do you get for the $$$ (0)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44147755)

If you are spending most of your budget on the insane precious metals support contracts then you are wasting money

If you are always sprawling out new hardware for every new requirement then you are wasting money

For lots of organizations it's easy to cut costs and get more for your money

Pick a number, any number (1)

spotvt01 (626574) | about a year ago | (#44147757)

50% sounds like [s]he either pulled it out of their ass or like someone else mentioned - the financial situation is dire. Like most discussions, you want to frame the conversation in the best possible way for you to win it. In your case, I would work with your boss to re-frame the discussion around cutting the right part 50%. Moving all engineering related expenses to line of business accounts would be a good first step, then you can take a look at the real enterprise IT. Of what remains, consider what you can outsource within the limits allowed by applicable security and regulatory constraints. Of the IT enabling expenses in line of business accounts, consider what portion of those are O&M vs new expenditures. Can new expenditures be deferred without impacting productivity/revenue? Can you consolidate, outsource, or invest/buy-down continual obligations (it's amazing how many orgs won' consider that b/c they're too short sighted)? Ensure each of those areas is related to an overarching business strategy ... that's your justification for those areas. Make sure that the linkage includes a rough discussion about the revenue/productivity impact of each area both for new purchases/continual obligations for both the engineering and enterprise IT expenses. Obviously, you're not going to cut 50% of all IT spending and still have the full level of effectiveness and efficiency, not within a FY. Perhaps you should consider a more phased approach?

I'm not saying this person is right. (1)

AdmV0rl0n (98366) | about a year ago | (#44147771)

However, it may be possible to cut costs by 50% if you have some expensive bad practises.

Let me give you an example. We replaced our old Dell Workstations - these were £2500 each, with newer, better units (Dell T3600s) for around £1100 a unit. There. In a single phase we cut more than 50% and the new units are not in any way a step backwards. IT costs can/do fall over time, so I'd argue initially that taking a good look may not be as hurtful as initially it seems. Virtualisation and cloud are offering for some areas a seismic shift in workload and capacity and I think spending in some areas in terms of investment can harness good returns on the funding/cost side.

*In the above, I am not agreeing with cuts per se, but if they are there, and are viable, then it has sense to take some time with them and examine the cases.

Embrace the change and kiss the arse (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a year ago | (#44147785)

What strategy would you use

I would move some of the IT related spend into a different budgetary category.

I expect from your question that you are one of the junior members of the organisation. The management will already have made plans for some token cuts to non-essential areas (though that could still include you) and found ways to preserve their empires, and maybe even surreptitiously carve out a little more besides, with financial shenannigans - that's their job.

You new director doesn't actually want any reductions in overall spend - that would be silly. He/she/it just wants to look like they are making a splash as a new appointee. That's how they gain their reputation and more importantly: their bonus.

The only thing to look out for is if your manager is somewhat clueless in playing the game at this level and actually believes the diktat that's come down from on high. If so, just put in a transfer to a different department. Your boss will be too busy wondering what hit them to worry about you.

What strategy would you use to convince? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147793)

Easy reduce your budget to 0.8% - that is email and other necessities. Shut down everything else. You will get a bonus for reducing spending 90% and later on you will get a bonus again when you save the company by switching everything back on again.

You might want to get out while you can (3, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | about a year ago | (#44147829)

How did this manager get to this 50% number? Was there a thorough end-to-end review with feedback and analysis from all stake holders? Or is this some half baked idea from reading vendors' web sites and intended to boost the new director's resume? You did not mention anything about a review so I suspect the latter.

You will never win this battle. I have never seen anyone win a battle like this. Bail out now and preserve your reputation. But before you go share your concerns with as many high level managers as you can.

Re:You might want to get out while you can (2)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44148531)

How did this manager get to this 50% number?

Sounds like something he pulled from a consulting firm white paper.

We have a new director....

If he's willing to learn your processes and identify specific places where overspending occurs, I'd say keep him. Otherwise it sounds like one of these people who swoop in, wring their hands over budgets, bring in the consulting firm and go on to the next job (or go to work for the consultants themselves) before implementation/restructuring is done.

Don't knock it though. Being a traveling rainmaker for consulting firms can be a lucrative career.

I am Cornholio (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#44149323)

Sounds like something he pulled from a consulting firm white paper.

Or some place that makes contact with white paper several times per day...

Do you solve technical problems by gut feel, too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147831)

Or do you measure, profile, and optimize? You obviously can't just go ask Microsoft or Facebook how they allocate their budget, but do some research to back up your gut impulse, and as others have said, put together a presentation with the data you do have showing what will be lost. And be thinking about your IT priorities as a backup plan in case you can't stop the axe from falling.

Depends (1)

cppmonkey (615733) | about a year ago | (#44147885)

8% may be low, just right or high depending on what else is in your "engineering budget". The 50% number is management BS. A number pulled out of someone's arse that is completely meaningless. You could just as easily spend more on engineering salary and grow the "engineering budget" to the magical 4% spending target as slash costs to the point you are out of business. Let me suggest the better approach to your manager. Look at where you are spending money, evaluate alternatives and if you see something offering a significant cost saving like say dropping expensive Microsoft Office licenses for Libre Office (especially in the engineering dept.) then make the decision to save some money.

Leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44147887)

If you are in IT in this company, then an ill-conceived directive to cut IT expenses by 50% sounds like the clearest possible signal that you need to find a different employer as soon as possible. A 50% cut is so severe that the reason doesn't matter - perhaps the company is about to go belly-up without drastic measures, perhaps management is entirely incompetent or perhaps management sees IT as useless (i.e., management is incompetent). All of that is very bad for you. Polish up that CV and get it out there posthaste. Do that before you start spending all your energy on convincing management that they are wrong. At this point, what you need is options.

If you are not in IT, you need to figure out if the company is about to go belly-up. In that case, you're in the same position as someone in IT - you need to polish up your CV right now. Even if you intend to go down with the ship out of loyalty, you'll still need that CV once the company isn't there any more. If that's not it, then possibly wait around a little bit to see how things will go, but if you've got management who is happy to remove tools vital for your job in order to save a bit, that is a signal that your output is not valued or that management is incompetent. Possibly both. Either way, that doesn't bode well for your future in that company.

This is all unless, of course, IT really is 100% over provisioned and a 50% cut is appropriate and can be carried out without layoffs? That sounds very unlikely, though.

You're going about this all wrong... (1)

urbanriot (924981) | about a year ago | (#44147951)

The first mistake you're making is trying to compare yourself with other engineering firms, which could easily be the same mistake your new IT director is determining your budget. You're asking 'how much do other engineering firms spend' when he could be thinking, "this is more than what my previous engineering firms have spent."

That and 'engineering' is far too broad a term to outright compare as some companies require hundreds of licenses for fluid dynamics modelling software at $10's of thousands of dollars per license.

The appropriate way to determine if you're spending too much, too little or just enough is to determine, specifically, what you need to function. Establish a per-PC baseline in terms of hardware (which may vary for certain departments), your refresh time for each area then then the required software that everyone needs then the additional software that certain departments need. You can also use the additional software suggested requirements as an additional baseline for hardware requirements. It may also be beneficial to stagger departmental refresh times to meet yearly budgetary requirements.

You should be providing information to your director to show "this is what we need to function and these are the costs" rather than trying to justify purchases based on comparisons. He can't dispute requirements... or perhaps there's a necessity for him to dispute requirements that people feel are requirements yet they're more of a want than a need, which is a typical experience at engineering firms.

Re:You're going about this all wrong... (1)

urbanriot (924981) | about a year ago | (#44147973)

I'd also like to add that it would be a good idea to play devil's advocate with the information you find so you can present to your new IT director with some choices to show that you play ball and also, to determine if there's some legitimacy to what he's saying. Or perhaps you may truly find that there are some areas where money can be saved.

Accounting tricks (1)

WPIDalamar (122110) | about a year ago | (#44147999)

This almost certainly came from some sort of "how much do you spend on IT" survey. Split your normal IT spending from your Engineering hardware budget. Then compared to other industries, your IT is in line.

Its not all that complicated (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148073)

You know when you have cut IT spending too much. Its all pretty practical. When the cheap server crashes so regularly that its impractical to use, you know you spent too little. When you can't get staff in to fix cheap hardware because of overtime limits (or no overtime), and systems 'stay down' till late in the next business day, then you know your IT payroll budgets are too low. When you lose a significant of your revenue in a year because of data loss, you know IT has been cut too deeply. People suggesting cuts might 'tempt the waters' and 'lets see what happens when', and my get short term gain (and promotions), but long term pain can result. Also no one wants to go to work where everything is broken all the time, and the phone is blowing off the hook with angry people all the time. If IT gets cut too much, people leave, the mess is still there, the data borked, and if the IT people leaving have intimate knowledge, of systems, that loss can hurt a company more than staffers 'putting the boot in' and destroying swaths of data on their way out.

IME, it all comes down to numbers (1)

Smerta (1855348) | about a year ago | (#44148167)

First of all, an organization where almost 50% of the staff (900 out of 2,000) is engineering sounds cool -- even most "technology" companies are much lower than that. When you consider marketing, sales, admin, HR, upper management, support, etc. it's easy to see why. But that's beside the point.

As others have said (and I'm saying this both as a guy whose been pitched to, and been doing the pitch), in a healthy organization, it just comes down to numbers (dollars, man hours, etc.) When I've been the decision maker, if a decent business case can be made for the spending, assuming the money is even possibly available, I'll go to bat and advocate (or just approve if I'm in that position). Things like monitors, faster computers, etc. translate pretty nicely into engineer productivity. And I've usually had data to back that up.

When I've been the one asking for money, I try to give 2 or 3 different "models" or scenarios, with anticipated costs and anticipated savings (or increase in productivity), **along with** ways that I believe we can demonstrate/measure the benefit. Just saying "We'll be 25% more productive" is vague and wishy-washy. Saying, "We think we'll cut 3 weeks off of this next 4 month cycle" is something that can be measured during & after the effort. Obviously, you don't just want to make stuff up, but if the numbers are grounded in reality, go for it.

For the stuff I do, it's usually not computers or software, it's oscilliscopes, logic analyzers, simulators, etc. But the result is the same: better equipment/tools should have a quantifiable benefit. Then there is a rational, unemotional basis for discussion. And even better, when you don't get what you've proposed, and things go sideways (usually schedule), you've got a paper trail documenting what you proposed as an alternative.

Ridiculous software licenses? (1)

Robotbeat (461248) | about a year ago | (#44148429)

You didn't mention software licenses. CAD software, modeling software, computing platforms can cost thousands of dollars per seat per year. Stuff like Solidworks or Pro/E or MATLAB are incredibly expensive, I can't imagine that it's stuff like hardware that costs the most. And companies probably ARE spending too much on software. They'd be far better served by having, say, industry organizations commission high-quality software (perhaps open-source) instead of paying the annual Solidworks or Pro/E tax. Unfortunately, this is a big collective action problem. But that's not to say it can't be done!

As much as it's fun to pick on management, they're probably right: Engineering software licenses are obscene.

Re:Ridiculous software licenses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148707)

numpy/scipy present an alternative to matlab in many cases. not all, and likely not even a majority but the packages are getting there.

Re:Ridiculous software licenses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44149223)

Matlab itself is relativly cheap. The optional toolboxes are expensive because they encapsulate very specific domain knowledge. The lack of similar toolboxes is what holds octave, scilab and the other open-source alternatives back.

Re:Ridiculous software licenses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148739)

10 years ago I did an internship with a big multinational company with several 10 thousand engineers. The team I interned with had 20 engineers and spent 1.5M euro a year for software licenses alone.

Later at university I shortly worked with software which costs commercial clients 300k per seat and year. I don't know how many licenses they sell but at least some clients consider the productivity gain high enough to pay that amount of money.

EDA software companies like Synopsys, Cadence or Mentor were hard hit when the 2008 recession forced firms to reconsider how many licenses they need.

got a couple of decades and alot of money. (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44148747)

If you think you can replace pr software like Solidworks or Pro/E or MATLAB by getting "industry organizations commission high-quality software" cheaply you obviously have no idea what is involved.

My first job was at just such a place for CFD you think will be cheap - we spent the cost of a small house on a single bit of HP instrumentation gear (this is before they sucked)

50% budget cut? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148473)

Might I suggest turning the computers off every other day?

You don't need that much IT for engineering. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148719)

Your company probably spends to much as it is, mine does.

I have a Core i5, Dell Latitude, circa 2010. Its ridiculous amount of power for engineering CAD, schematics, board layout, research.

I do some 5% of work at home on occasion, on a 2006 era Core 2 Duo, and it breezes right along.

Not a problem (1)

slimdave (710334) | about a year ago | (#44148729)

It's clearly trivial to cut IT costs by 90%, while only increasing other costs by only 7 or 8% -- reclassify IT costs not related to office work to the engineering budget. You'll have world-beating IT costs of only 0.8% of total engineering budget.

8%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44148845)

I work for a large financial institution, and fully $1 billion (one quarter of annual costs) go to 'IT' related things.

From my perspective, 8% looks like a pile of peanuts.

Slashing IT costs (1)

TimO_Florida (2894381) | about a year ago | (#44149205)

Well you can toss a box on the table marked 'employee tools' containing a calculator, a pad of paper and a box of pencils and then ask the 'boss' how much work he thinks the department will get done....

Test Equipment (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about a year ago | (#44149207)

I try to make sure that all the equipment in our labs is designated as Test Equipment and not 'IT' stuff. Lots of modern test equipment incorporates computers, but the goober who installs the anti-virus suite is NOT getting near it. If you have the test equipment networked, keep it on a separate network from the 'IT' stuff and completely isolated from the Internet. Also prohibit non-tech people from having access on it.

By partitioning your 'test equipment' away from IT, you can keep it out of the IT budget.

what they mean is cut staff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44149357)

My advice if you have a choice of who to sack is to look for middle managers. Anybody with less than 8 direct reports.

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