Thought for the day: No such thing as a free lunch

We all try and get something for nothing, but businesses need to know the cost of technology, says Colin Beveridge.

Colin Beveridge  
We all try and get something for nothing, but businesses need to know the cost of technology, says Colin Beveridge.




In the world of business there is no such thing as a free lunch. The consumer will always end up paying for the provider’s hospitality, one way or another.

Occasionally the process is open to abuse by either party, but as a matter of principle most of us understand this fundamental fact of business life and accept the situation, albeit with varying degrees of caution and openness.

Sometimes we conveniently disconnect the generosity of our hosts from the eventual payback, because we all like to feel that we really are getting something for nothing – without any obligation on our part. It’s just basic human nature, and nothing to be ashamed of, providing we maintain a due sense of proportion and don’t become greedy.

Greed is not good for anyone, despite Gordon Gecko’s assertion to the contrary in the movie Wall Street.

Greed is not just a close relative of our natural hunger for a free meal - it is much more pernicious than an over-excited appetite. It involves not only personal over-consumption but also the denial of precious resources to others.

And most of us don’t have far to look for evidence of greedy consumers and the damage they do. We only need to look at the apparently voracious appetite of our business colleagues, eager to consume ever-increasing morsels of costly technology.

There are still far too many businesses which provide their IT as if it was a free lunch, or at any rate “free” at the point of delivery.

Too many businesses still don’t make the clear and simple connection between the cost of the technology and the rate of consumption.

For sure, some organisations recognised this problem years ago and adopted menu pricing of IT services. This approach is a really effective tool for managing our budgets because the cost to serve is immediately apparent to the consumer and mitigates our tendency to treat IT as a free lunch.

Menu pricing also reinforces the relationship between supply and demand and helps the IT function to move beyond any adverse perception of being a pure overhead.

It’s high time that we all ran our departments in this way and even if we can’t recover our costs directly, we can still publish our pricelist or menu. Then everybody knows the cost of consumption.

Perhaps we should also put a gentle exhortation to our customers on the bottom of our IT menu – “Service is not included. A suggested gratuity of 12.5% will be added to your bill…”

What do you think?

Are your users prepared to pay the true cost of technology? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at

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