Monday, March 9, 2009

Independent consultants can quickly translate hours saved to dollars - employees can't

One would think (or at least I thought) that when it comes to selling auxiliary software tools it would be easier to sell them to an organization where the buyer is using the organization’s funds to purchase the product than to an independent consultant who has to shell out his own money. However having spent the last 5 years in the SQL tools market I have concluded that the opposite is true – generally speaking the independent consultants do not need much convincing, whereas the full time dba/developer in an organization seems to have a much harder time making a $300 decision!

So, that got me thinking: why would someone readily pay a few hundred dollars from his own pocket for one of our tools while a full time employee seems to struggle to make up his mind and appears to be constantly looking to come up with unusual scenarios that the off the shelf tool may not handle? I have come up with three main reasons (not necessarily an exhaustive list of reasons):
  1. the value preposition for the independent consultant is very clear – every hour of their time has a price tag – if they find a tool that saves them 1 hour per day they can quickly translate that saved hour into dollars. On the other hand a full time employee can not easily convert “hours saved” to money, nor can his boss or the boss’ boss.
  2. The bureaucracy that plagues many organizations significantly dilutes the short term value of such tools - if you as an employee are forced to go through hoops to get approval for purchasing a $300 product that will potentially save you a couple of hours per week then you may decide it is not worth the pain. The independent consultant on the other hand does not need to ask for permission from anyone so there are no “costs” associated with the approval process.
  3. A programmers ego: “I can do this stuff myself, why should I pay someone else to do it for me” When it comes to productivity an independent consultant can not afford to have an ego whereas a full time employee can and furthermore, by building a custom solution instead of buying an off the shelf tool the full time programmer will likely consolidate his position with the company. A lot of you may be surprised but I have found that it is often easier to convince the higher ups to let you put 100 hours on a project than convince them to let you spend $300 on a tool.

Please note that this is not a “research based” conclusion – it is simply an opinion supported by personal experiences. Please feel free to add your perspective on this and don't forget to check out our tools - you don't even have to pay anything in some cases.

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