When is saving money, not saving money?

In my youth, I once worked for a kind old lady painting her home. The woman owned a beautiful home in a beautiful neighbourhood. The value of the property alone would have reached many million USD. While I repaired computer networks for half of the day, I assisted a small team of professional painters redecorate this woman’s home. It was a delightful affair, speaking with this woman, browsing her vast collection of classical music and speaking with her as I painted.

One day when we had completed painted a large majority of the upper floor, our small team moved to the basement. In the basement we found rooms absolutely packed with newspapers and various worthless keepsakes. Large areas of the home were off limits to our crew because of the labyrinth of clippings and photos and various ephemera throughout the basement. Our host, however, wove her way through the endless maze of paper and trinkets. We began to question if our host, despite her graciousness, was all there mentally.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. —Mark Twain

Invest in value.

Despite this women’s wealth, her existence was comprised of her hoarding. Her passion was valueless. Often Southeast Asian business operates in this manner. I have known more than a single firm that is so dedicated to cost cutting, that they have bogged down their operation and failed to invest in substantial and often necessary corporate investments.

There is a point where it is valuable for someone from the outside to point out that an expert opinion may be absolutely necessary. Just as the kind lady I have mentioned, sometimes we need an outsider to inform us that what we value may not be terribly valuable. We need someone to point out that our obsession with cost cutting, or newspaper clippings may be standing in the way of real financial growth and healthy living.

Introduce skilled labour.

I wouldn’t perform an appendectomy or a rhinoplasty or any other medical procedure, despite knowing the basics of first aid and anatomy. I wouldn’t repair my new car, despite having watched Top Gear. In the same manner, it seems unwise to ask a junior staff member to create a mobile application or responsive website, when they have only been trained in computer networks and have no experience. What your ICT department doesn’t know can harm you.

Alternatively, a professional developer can actually save you money. With experience, project times shrink, the ability and scope of the application increases, the satisfaction of the user increases and most importantly more satisfied and impressed users means greater returns and exposure. You could save money by placing a franchise restaurant in rural Kelantan, but you could also make much more return by investing in a more heavily trafficked location in central Kuala Lumpur.

Ultimately, it is your investment.

What you decide to do when growing the digital projects within your company ultimately involves your comfort with risk. Are you comfortable with leaving your project with an inexperienced ICT staff member? Are you comfortable investing in a project without understanding where the project may go? Are you comfortable creating a digital offering that your customers may hate, or that may cause you to lose business? If you answered no to any of these questions, you might want to hire an expert.

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. —Warren Buffett