Software Is Always Free!

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a conference. I made the statement, “Software is always free.” As I knew I would, I got a few raised eyebrows.
“Let me show you what I mean,” I said. “How many of you keep books on some kind of software? QuickBooks to SAP?” I got a few raised hands.
“How many of you believe that you have gotten a return on your investment in software?” Three hands in a room of over 100. Pretty bad result, wouldn’t you say?
“Ok, that looks pretty much like I expected. Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll give you back all the money you’ve invested in computer software. Like that idea? (Nods and agreement.) We’ll also give you a few other things: some 12 column pads, an adding machine, and about a dozen good sharp #2 pencils. You can’t ever have your computer and software back again. You’ll be doing it with pencil and paper for the rest of your career! Any takers?” Predictably, there were none.
“Now let me ask you again, ‘How many of you think you get a return on your investment in software and technology?'” Every hand in the room went up.
So I repeat, “Software is always free.” Businesses always get more in return than they invest in the software. Of course, they dont’ think about it that way, but they wouldn’t give it up if given a chance.
Here’s the sad thing: Almost every business I walk into could be getting much more from their software. Problem: the way the software is used in the business has reached the boundary of their knowledge. They CAN’T get more from it because the DON’T know where to look.
More later.