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118 posts

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  Reply # 583349 19-Feb-2012 09:19
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Paulthagerous: Another way to look at it may be this:  Would the client benefit from a much shorter run time? ...  If it is a case of time is money, then the potential savings could potentially pay themselves off really quickly.

Of course, there is always that tradeoff. Some things are just not worth the time/money it would take to fix them. If so, then the users will just have to put up with it.

But long, inefficient tasks consume resources in many ways and often have hidden opportunity costs. For example: the user might forget to update something before running the process; or the user may make a mistake in entering data, setting up the process, etc; or the computer might crash during the run. The user may not find out that the results are wrong until the next day, after the 19 hour run time. If so, then they'll have to wait another day to get the results - assuming the results are correct after that attempt.

The long elapsed time, frustration, explanations to the boss, and distractions for the boss all consume energy that could be better directed towards activities that add value to the organization. Similarly, enhancements to the spreadsheet that could provide additional, valuable functionality don't get made because "it already takes 19 hours to run" and so opportunities are missed. Although difficult to quantify, these costs can be substantial.

In my example, I replaced 21 lines of VBA with 17 lines of VBA and reduced the run time by a factor of 12,000. In most circumstances that would be a worthwhile investment.

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  Reply # 583353 19-Feb-2012 09:40
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Ouranos:
Paulthagerous: Another way to look at it may be this:  Would the client benefit from a much shorter run time? ...  If it is a case of time is money, then the potential savings could potentially pay themselves off really quickly.

Of course, there is always that tradeoff. Some things are just not worth the time/money it would take to fix them. If so, then the users will just have to put up with it.

But long, inefficient tasks consume resources in many ways and often have hidden opportunity costs. For example: the user might forget to update something before running the process; or the user may make a mistake in entering data, setting up the process, etc; or the computer might crash during the run. The user may not find out that the results are wrong until the next day, after the 19 hour run time. If so, then they'll have to wait another day to get the results - assuming the results are correct after that attempt.

The long elapsed time, frustration, explanations to the boss, and distractions for the boss all consume energy that could be better directed towards activities that add value to the organization. Similarly, enhancements to the spreadsheet that could provide additional, valuable functionality don't get made because "it already takes 19 hours to run" and so opportunities are missed. Although difficult to quantify, these costs can be substantial.

In my example, I replaced 21 lines of VBA with 17 lines of VBA and reduced the run time by a factor of 12,000. In most circumstances that would be a worthwhile investment.


I completely agree with everything you said, but the problem in my eyes is the OP would need to convince their client that it is worthwhile for the investment in the spreadsheet itself, not new hardware.  If dangling a carrot in their face of a potentially 10fold plus decrease (I know it could be much more, but not good to over promise!) in time doesn't work, maybe the task isn't that vital.  But it's one thing for the OP to realize it needs a rework, another to convince the client that it is a better way to do it .

My gut feeling though is that if they are prepared to spend $5k on this machine it is an important task... 

gzt

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  Reply # 583372 19-Feb-2012 11:30
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Then there are the organisational issues. In many large companies it is simple for employees to use the hardware budget (and from the accounting point of view this includes depreciation). Proposing an external contractor charge is a whole different ball game with a whole different process attached. The outcomes are sometimes illogical.

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  Reply # 583390 19-Feb-2012 12:31
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gzt: Then there are the organisational issues. In many large companies it is simple for employees to use the hardware budget (and from the accounting point of view this includes depreciation). Proposing an external contractor charge is a whole different ball game with a whole different process attached. The outcomes are sometimes illogical.


Indeed,  to the beancounters hardware is a fixed price so fits within the CapEx mold.  The issue with contractor hours is the fluidity of it and ICT spend is notoriously unreliable in those terms.  Bean counters get the jitters (and rightly so) when you have what is basically an unquantifiable spend.   ICT spend has shown historically, that it can get completely out of control without any quantifiable benefit, without any value added and zero asset value(whisper INCIS near an accountant).  Few, if any, developers are prepared to "quote" a job..... about the same as the number of accountants prepared to risk the future of the company at a crap table.

It's a gamble.  Any professional Gambler will tell you that you only sit down at the table with a stake you are prepared to lose.  Many companies are willing to do that, unfortunately there are very few developers who are prepared, in the same way,  to cap a project cost.  

There are lots of reasons for that, constantly changing specifications arguably being the most annoying one, but until devs and clients get together and agree to spread the risk, then the known, like the above, is going to be seen as the lesser risk.

It is(or should be) the clients right to define the field because it is they who are shouldering all the risk.  Software development companies however, demand zero risk to themselves (other than reputation) when they take on a project,  which is why historically, development has been an hourly charge model, all the cost escalation risk then goes on the client.

Is it any wonder the bean counters get wary.

Devs say:  "You'll save money!"
BC:  "How much"
Dev: "Lots"
BC "How much is Lots"
Dev: "A lot more than Bugger-all"
BC: "Put it another way then, will we save more than what you will charge to do the job?"
Dev: "WHOA!  I didn't say that, we'll charge as much as it takes to do the job."
BC: "How much will that be"
Dev: "How long is a moebius strip" 

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  Reply # 583395 19-Feb-2012 13:00
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deepred: I'm pricing a quote for a new PC to be used for some rather insane number crunching. The client basically runs a 16MB Excel 2010 file with a calculation macro, and his current machine takes 19 hours to process it on an unspecified quad-core PC. 



can you explain, in basic terms, what the spreadsheet actually does?  i.e. does it require data entry, or is it pulling data from eslewhere.  what sort of calculations.  is it just to get a nice formatted 'report?




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138 posts

Master Geek
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  Reply # 583536 19-Feb-2012 19:13
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Everything's self contained, including the spreadsheet data. The spreadsheet itself has quite a few complex algorithms calculating various financial projections.

And as I said in my last post, even heavy-duty Socket 2011 gear couldn't push it any faster. So it's back to the drawing board for the client.

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