The $12,000 Porsche: A Critical Lesson in IT Project Cost Control

I love Porsches. They always captured my attention as a child, and I told myself I’d own one someday. The sound, the quirky design, everything about them is perfect. One of my favorites is the 944, in production until 1991. It was a departure from Porsche’s typical design, so it isn’t terribly desirable to hardcore Porsche collectors. Some are listed for as low as $1,500—an attainable price point for me!

Recently, I went to check out a 944 for sale and priced on the low end. I found little things here and there that would require repair. After some research, I learned these small items would cost a significant amount of time, money and effort to fix, even if I did my own work.

The story was the same with other cars I saw in the same price range. One needed a timing belt replacement ($1,900 at a shop). Another needed a cooling system overhaul (between $1,100 and $1,600). Even discounting labor, the parts alone would completely blow my budget.

I was devastated. My dream of driving a classic Porsche evaporated. I came across a brilliant post on a forum that put the final nail in the coffin:

“All 944s cost $12,000. You’ll either pay that money up front, or you’ll make up the difference (and then some) within a year.”

How does this relate to IT projects?

It can be difficult to get executive approval for appropriate funding of a project. In fact, some may argue that it is a manager’s job to push back on budgets. After all, if the goal is to drive as much ROI as possible from a project, getting a given outcome for less is a win—you have already moved the needle before it starts.

Unfortunately, as is often painfully obvious after the fact, it’s not that simple. By choosing to go with a low-cost solution from the start (whether it is a cheaper software package or by skimping on implementation support), you risk paying much more in the long term.

Most IT projects, like antique cars, will have minor issues crop up. These are often quality-of-life issues, not serious liabilities.

However, if you buy the $1,500 Porsche version of an IT project, you may be turning a blind eye to critical defects. Maybe you haven’t completely mapped the business processes and there’s a significant gap in the solution. Perhaps some requirements set out in the project charter have been forgotten. You will likely need to scramble during project implementation, making the fix much costlier.

As is the case with the $1,500 car, you’ll wind up spending far more overall than had you gone with the right solution from the start.

Choosing the more expensive software, vendor, and strategy can’t completely safeguard you from catastrophic issues, just like buying a $12,000 Porsche 944 doesn’t guarantee a perfect car. But by making your choices from a value perspective, rather than focusing on upfront project cost, you can exponentially increase your chances for success.

And as for my childhood dream, I will keep working on improving outcomes for clients’ IT projects, and one day be able to afford a 944 in top condition.

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