But it looked a LOT better in the budget request

This software company develops a very specialized type of application, and pretty much owns the worldwide market, according to the IT manager pilot fish there.

But there's a problem with being the sole vendor in this niche: "As ours was the only software existing, we had customers who were competitors in their respective fields," says fish.

"The solution was that each customer got its own team of developers, complete with separate infrastructure and sites. They were all working from the same base code, but developing custom-build solutions individually."

During fish's first year, there are two big customers with two development sites to maintain. But the next year, seven new customers sign contracts. The third year, another five customers sign. And it keeps growing that way.

Which means the company is hiring developers like crazy -- and fish and his staff have to keep them all up and running, as well as properly equipped with hardware and software.

Fortunately, it's pretty easy to calculate the IT support cost. Each development team is heavily funded -- in the double-digit-millions per year -- and a standard 15 percent of the cost is apportioned to IT. That's what fish bases his budget request on.

"When I put in my weekly purchase orders for working spaces -- PCs, desks, chairs -- they usually got approved within hours," fish says.

"But starting one March, the POs didn't come back approved. It wasn't that they were later than usual -- they didn't come back at all. So I went to my boss, who was also controller of the company, and asked her about the POs."

Boss's response: "Your budget is spent. You can't buy anything until the end of the year."

How can this be? fish asks. My plan for the year was for 13 million. Two months in, we haven't even spent 1.5 million.

"The budget you proposed in October was for 13.6 million," boss replies. "The numbers did not look good on the proposal I would have sent to the board, so I removed a digit. The budget was approved for 1.3 million for the whole year."

Fish is astonished. How do you imagine we can run a software development company hiring 10 people a week with no money to give them anything but pencils and paper? he asks.

"When she answered that this would be my problem and my problem alone, I asked her politely if she was out of her mind, updated my resume and left," says fish.

"A few weeks later I heard that my complete staff did the same, and the company took to outsourcing IT -- for triple the costs my budget had stated."

Sharky's budget calls for one new true tale of IT life per day. Help keep me fully budgeted by sending your story to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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