What is the Cost of Not Doing Things?

We’re really good at measuring the cost of some things. We’re good at measuring the cost of a new computers for everyone on the team, we’re good at measuring the cost per hour of a resource on a project and we’re good at measuring the time it will take to complete a new feature.

It seems like people are not good at is measuring the cost of not doing things. What is the cost of maintaining an application on 10 year old technology instead of upgrading it to newer versions as they come out? What is the cost of not having unit tests and automated test suites? What is the cost of running many different versions of a framework or a virtual machine?

Unfortunately this leaves us with a problem. When we cannot quantify the cost of inaction it often looks like a reasonable choice because we assume that it’s free. That assumption is the root of a lot of problems.

This post is just me ranting, I wish I had the answer.

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Geoff Lane

I’m Geoff Lane and I write Zorched.net as I figure things out about software development in the hopes that it can help other people facing similar situations. Also as a thanks to the larger web community for all of the information and knowledge that they have shared. I’ve been a professional software developer since 1999 working with a variety of different technologies. I’ve worked for startups in the Silicon Valley and Chicago, IL and now work as a consultant building custom applications for clients.

3 thoughts on “What is the Cost of Not Doing Things?”

  1. Geoff, this is something that people have been looking at for a while as a function of Quality Assurance. We look at this in the Building Science world and it’s often referred to as the “cost of non-conformance.” There are volumes of material available on quantifying these costs, none of which I’ve read. Maybe some of it can apply to the software world?

  2. Cost of non-conformance definitely applies to software. One definition of “quality” is “meeting the customer’s requirement.” You can already see where this is going. So, if we do nothing in a situation where something should be done, then there is logically a cost associated with that — otherwise, why does something need to be done?

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