Dare Obasanjo has an insightful post here about Microsoft’s cost cutting strategies.
Dare and I’ve had some rather vocal disagreements in the past (mostly about XML, and mostly in private ☺) but IMHO, he’s 100% right on here. I fully support Microsoft initiatives to cut costs in-house, they make sense. I griped about cutting the towel service, but it really did make sense if looked at objectively – saving $250,000 a year that was benefiting maybe a thousand people in total does make sense. On the other hand, I’ve not YET come to a decent explanation of why not stocking office supplies is a good idea.
If it’s to cut costs, then it’s likely to backfire – the reaction for most groups will be to have the administrative assistant for the group buy the supplies for the group and stock them in his/her office. This means that instead of having a single location on each floor of the building to go for supplies, each admin will maintain their own stock. On average (at least in my building) there are two admins per floor, so now, instead of having the supplies stocked in one location, they’re stocked in two. I can’t see how having admins waste their valuable time stocking office supplies saves us money – it may reduce the cost of stocking the supply rooms, but all it does is to move the costs around – instead of it being a single facilities expense, the expenses get moved to the individual departments.
The only other reason I’ve come up with is to avoid pilfering – but how much of a problem is that realistically? I know that at some companies, the pilfering problem is significant, but think of it as a cost/benefit trade-off – what is the cost of pilfering vs. the benefit of having office supplies convenient? For example, the conference rooms (and there are 8 of them on each floor of my building) are constantly running out of either white-board markers or erasers. If I’m having a meeting in a conference room and there’s no markers (not an unusual occurrence), someone’s got to run out and get new ones. But if they’re not stocked on the floor, they’ve got to run all around the building trying to find markers.
So in order to save the time of a minimum wage stocker, this policy causes a meeting attended by four or five highly paid developers to be held up for several minutes while someone searches for the supplies needed to hold the meeting.
Sigh. Penny wise and pound foolish is exactly right.