13 years, 5 months ago

On ‘Time=Money’ and other metaphors

Link: http://weblog.tomgraves.org/index.php/2011/01/16/does-time-equal-money/

“Gotta rush! Time equals money, ya know!”

But does it?

More accurately, are they ever actually equivalent?

It’s not a trivial question – because if they’re not equivalent, just how much damage is that metaphor doing to our enterprise-architectures, business-architectures and much else besides?

Closely related to this is another metaphor: “money equals value”. And that one can do enormous damage, too – especially in business.

So let’s explore those two metaphors for a while…

First, obviously, there’s some truth there. Many things are priced by time; many people are paid a price for their efforts based on time – an hourly rate, a daily rate, a salary as ‘compensation’ for their time. Yet in each case the value is variable: two people may be paid the same hourly rate for very different work and very different results; most cell-phone companies seem to offer incomprehensible ‘packages’ of phone-time and other time-based resources for any given price.

“Your call is important to us”, their automated ‘customer-service’ system tells you, for the fourteenth time in  a row: the call is so important to them, it seems, that they’ll keep you waiting for an hour or more, at your expense of both time and money, until one of the few people whose time they’re willing to pay for will finally get a chance to answer your call. To them, the time they have to pay for is money; but your time is seemingly worthless. Time traded in different currencies, it seems – with a very variable exchange-rate, depending on which side of the ’service’-system you sit…

And what kind of time will money really buy? Can it buy back a lost opportunity? Can it buy back the time with your growing children that you missed whilst ‘making money’?

What happens when time and money collide with the fixed events of business-life? Can money buy back the last train of the evening that you’ve just missed? The flight-connections you failed to make because of a delay on the previous flight? In principle, yes, a very large amount of money could perhaps do that: yet rarely so in practice…

What value is lost, or gained, when time = money = value? What’s the real trade-off here: your money, or your life? Or what?

So be very wary of those so-simple, so-’obvious’ metaphors like ‘time is money’, or ‘money is value’: they can be very misleading indeed. Yes, they’re useful at times: but if we take them too literally – especially in enterprise-architectures – they can cause a great deal of damage. And often irreparable damage at that…

You Have Been Warned? :-)