Geo Week News

April 11, 2012

Complexity equals fraud


I was enjoying a commentary by PJ O’Rourke about his outrage at the American system for collecting income taxes when he dropped this little nugget on me,  

“… Which bring(s) us to an often-neglected principle of economics: ‘Complexity is fraud.’ If we can’t make heads or tails of what we’re buying, how can we be sure what we’re actually getting?” He went on to outline several examples such as invoices for cellular telephone services and airline tickets. I couldn’t agree more. I hate it when someone can’t tell me what a service will cost without having to list several ancillary fees, taxes and surcharges. If the cost is added every time does the reason and title of the cost really matter?   

Do your invoices look like cell phone bills?

This is a subject that I have been fighting with for years. I am a firm believer in the fact that the more a person understands what I do, the better the chances are that they will see the value in 3D imaging. However, I have done a fair amount of research on just how much information we can take in at one time. As it turns out it’s about seven things. On any given project I’ll have more than seven pieces of equipment, and that’s before you even consider the number of steps I will take to get to one of the many deliverables available to the client. So what’s the answer? Should we keep it simple or try to fully explain what can be a rather complex task to each and every client?  

When I started out in the laser scanning business I used a very simple pricing scheme. I had a day rate for the scanner and two technicians, an hourly rate for registration, and finally an hourly rate for modeling. As more services and options came online (texture mapping, HDR Photography, TruView websites, etc.) I simply added them to the menu until a simple proposal became quite complex. I wasn’t trying to make it complicated, I was actually trying to be certain that the client understood all of the steps necessary to produce the deliverable he wanted. After all, there really is a reason why I can’t answer the questions he has about his structure while I’m in the field!  

Now that I am with SmartGeoMetrics I am using their pricing model, which is close to where I started. A single day rate for the scanner and a two man crew. One change is that the day rate includes everything from field to a registered point cloud. I like the simplicity a lot, but I worry that it all starts to seem too simple. While too much information can overload a person, too little information means there are more unknowns and this is often a predictor of client dissatisfaction. 

In a past life I was a musician. The running line with musicians is that you don’t get paid to perform at gigs, you get paid for all of the practice you put in to be able to play the gig. It may be true, but it’s a hard sell to your clients. This is why I went to such lengths to educate my clients on exactly what it takes to create those beautiful 3D models. But I’ll be the first to admit that the complexity of it all with dollar amounts associated with each task can look like a cell phone bill, and we all know how we feel when that hits our mailbox.

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