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Corporate IT loves the billable hour, and they are wrong. This article doesn’t actually go live till tomorrow, but I figured I’d share it with this community to see if it generated any feedback.

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    This was a funny way to start the day. Much appreciated.

    Taken more seriously, I completely agree with the conclusion that billable hours are the root of much evil. So many improvements are never tackled because the first question to IT always becomes “how much time will this take to build?”, cue shocked reaction and subsequent burial of the idea.

    Billable hours also go hand in hand with tight budgets and project deadlines. You estimated this much time, why are you not done yet? Stop working, there is no more budget available. The result is a code base full of hacks and shortcuts that never get addressed by a refactor, driving future development cost up. A spiral that is accurately presented in this post.

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      and yet every time I quote something as project-based deliverable(s), fixed-priced I invariably get a “well what is the hourly rate?”

      very frustrating

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      It’s a terrible system.

      It fosters internal competition and, as far as I’m concerned, the only case where internal competition could be beneficial is one in which the company is too big and should be broken up or have parts spun off. If the company isn’t at that level of dysfunctional bigness, internal competition is poison.

      I was in a conversation once about internal clients and billing where someone said, “Don’t worry, this is all funny money.” Right. Sure. I buy that. So if it’s all funny money, why track it in the first place? Why not just disabuse ourselves of the entire fiction and focus on technical excellence (i.e. doing our jobs)?

      This is also why I hate Agile Scrum and “story points” and “user stories” and business-driven development. Sure, 90 percent of the time, that stuff is unenforced and not taken seriously and completely harmless. I get that. I agree. It still gets in the way and serves no purpose, and creates a risk of future danger should circumstances change and you end up in that 10% of circumstances wherein that stuff does real damage to real people. So why have it in the first place, if the best-case scenario is no real gain and the worst-case scenario is negative?

      I think that a big problem is that managers are bored because their jobs are too easy. So they have to make work for themselves. Just like day traders who’d be profitable if they stuck to their core strategies but who lose money on boredom trading, they end up implementing a bunch of ideas that sound OK on paper but end up poisoning relationships and crippling the company.

      I think that the best way to pick managers is to select those who least want the job, because they’ll be inclined to do the minimal amount of management work that is absolutely necessary, but then get out of the way instead of inventing hair-brained internal billing and performance management infrastructures that, even if they were originally built with better intentions, tend to end up being used for evil in the end.

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        I think that a big problem is that managers are bored because their jobs are too easy.

        I’d word that a little differently- if managers aren’t managing what is their value? Managers need to justify their existence, and to do that, they gotta manage shit. It’s not that their jobs are easy, it’s that in many cases (not all, not all), their jobs are unnecessary.

        Generally, if you want to make a company efficient, fire all the middle managers. You might catch some productive workers in the culling, but more often than not, you’re cutting dead weight. What you don’t want to cut is the laborers. They actually know how to get shit done.

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          It’s not that their jobs are easy, it’s that in many cases (not all, not all), their jobs are unnecessary.

          I agree. That’s a better way of putting it. When your job is unnecessary, that makes your life harder, because you need to play politics if you wish to keep it.

          fire all the middle managers. You might catch some productive workers in the culling, but more often than not, you’re cutting dead weight. What you don’t want to cut is the laborers.

          True. And yet it usually is the laborers, because they have the lowest political standing, who get cut. And the ones who survive still suffer, because they have to do more work to cover for the lost people.