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23 May 2006

UFOs and small beings with two stomachs

As every parent knows, small children have two stomachs. One gets full up really quickly and that's where the healthy food seems to go. Then when they've sat there for 10 minutes complaining about being full up, the second stomach comes into play and that's where the ice cream ends up. But I thought you said you were full I say, yet there is always room for something they want to eat.

When these children grow up, as adults they'll do the same thing. Especially if they end up working in finance, they might become UFOs or Unbelievable Financial Officers.
As unbelievable as the two stomach scenario is, many companies run their budgets along similar lines. How many of these can you spot?

We're downsizing, but we're taking on contractors.
But aren't contractors more expensive?
"That's a different budget"

We can't afford to send you on a course, there's no money in the budget
But you're giving me a generous layoff package, and with the money I can go on the course ten times over.
"Yes, but that's a different budget"

We need more staff to do the work we keep getting, but the recruitment never gets approved.
There's some consultants coming in to tell the management team the same things that the staff has been telling them for the last 2 years.
"We can afford the consultants instead of more staff, they are funded from another budget"

"I am being held up by slow equipment and hardware. I would be 5% more effective if my PC had an upgrade. This would cost less than 2% of my annual wages and the PC would last for 3+ years."
"The hardware budget is frozen, you'll have to make do on 95% effectiveness even though this costs the company more money".

"The net development costs will be much higher if we cut these corners, the system will be more unreliable and performance will suffer".
"Don't worry about that, we can transfer the costs to the support dept. They have a different budget."

Could all be straight out of Dilbert.

When I do business planning, I add up all the income, subtract all the expenditure and the net result is profit - the bank has no record of what internal budgets I use. In XP terminology, it's the simplest thing that works, and it does the job for me.

The next time the Unbelievable Financial Officer tells you about the multiple budget problem, tell them you've spotted a UFO. It's probably more believable.
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