back to article IBM: Customer visit costing £75 in travel? Kill it with extreme prejudice

It’s not just teleworkers that are feeling the sharp end of IBM strategic shifts – services personnel must now justify visiting a client on site if travel costs £75 or more. Tosca Colangeli, Big Blue’s UK veep of Global Technology Services, has told her team: “All travel requests raised should be critical requirements that …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm

    Almost as stingy as Atos

    1. Shady
      Stop

      Re: Hmm

      You don't know the meaning of the word "stingy"

      Back when I were perm (Yorkshire accent required) a colleague was required to deliver and install a server from Derby to somewhere near Tyne and Wear and used his own car, looking forward to claiming his 40p / mileage allowance, thinking he was going to make a little extra beer money.

      His car broke down on the way back and as he didn't have breakdown cover had to join the AA at the roadside, who couldn't get his car going so had to flatbed him home.

      Upon learning this, our mutual boss decided to calculate his mileage based on the outward journey and the portion of the return journey before the breakdown occurred.

      As tight as a cats arse, that one.

      1. Miss Lincolnshire

        Re: Hmm

        Mark Hurd missed a trick there. I once drove from Birmingham to Cobalt (Newcastle) where my car refused to start and was taken home by a series of AA Relay blokes.

        I claimed and received every penny of the return trip :)

        1. IHateWearingATie
          Pint

          Re: Hmm

          Ah Cobalt

          What a miserable hole in the ground that was. I can only imagine the panic that set in when the car refused to start and you thought you may be stuck there.

          Hope you claimed for the resulting mental trauma as well.

          1. Miss Lincolnshire

            Re: Hmm

            Better than that I got the full 15 months payoff (12 months salary + PILON) and started on a contract within a month of leaving. Less hassle, less stress, nice people and I'm actually learning again. Thanks McKinsey.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm

          That seems like stealing to me.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm

        @Shady "Upon learning this, our mutual boss decided to calculate his mileage based on the outward journey and the portion of the return journey before the breakdown occurred."

        I once had to travel to a training course and expensed upgrading my car insurance from SDP+C* to full Business use. I think it was only £20 but it was something I only incurred to attend the course and to their credit my employer did pay up.

        AC: Current employer (at time of typing).

        *UK-ian car insurance has different usage types:

        SDP = Social, Domestic, Pleasure (i.e. anything other than going to work)

        Commuting = Travel from home to permanent place of work (usually includes SDP)

        Business = Travel for work other than covered by "Commuting" e.g. customer sites. (usually includes the other two).

    2. The First Dave

      Re: Hmm

      Not really being stingy, this is just "constructive dismissal" at its best.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Stinginess is relative

      Everyone seems stingy to those of us who were around in the late 90s until 9/11. I used to buy full fare tickets so I could earn more miles/points and have a better shot at upgrades. We used to compete to see who could run up the biggest dinner bill - and broke all previous records with a $7500 tab for six on the last night of one of my contracts. Everything was always reimbursed without question, so long as you saved the receipt.

      Having to deal with "per diem" or buying restricted fares three weeks in advance and putting in change fees as an expense if flights needed to be adjusted seemed like austerity had hit! Blanket travel bans are great unless 1) it means working in some crappy cube farm instead from home like I do and 2) that travel wasn't to a place with a beach when you have snow on the ground where you live.

      Travel is a royal pain here in the land of the TSA - it looked like I might have to travel for work for the first time in ages last year and I got permission to drive myself even though it was 500 miles away just because I could avoid the airport. Fortunately it was canceled (not due to cost cutting, just changing priorities in the C-suite)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      Anyone running a business that allows unchecked travel over £75 is at best incompetent and worse a complete moran

  2. wyatt

    The majority of my work is now remote, via VPN/Remote access software. Whilst this isn't a bad thing, nurturing the customer relationship and picking up on small issues which need resolving/could be bigger issues isn't always possible.

    I hope customers who rely on IBM ensure they're getting what they need out of their contracts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "picking up on small issues which need resolving/could be bigger issues isn't always possible."

      Bigger issues = more money from customer.

      Welcome to the modern economy.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Yup, they seem to have picked up Big Pharma's ideology - "healing is a fool's game; treating indefinitely, that's where the money is!"

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Fixing those small issues that cause a lot of annoyance and visibility for the customer is the sort of thing that will get your contract renewed. Fixing their big problems via expensive change orders might keep them satisfied for now, but makes them more likely to look around for a cheaper alternative when the contract term is ending.

  3. hplasm Silver badge
    Meh

    Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

    - In the days when they used to turn up on site to fix things...

    1. Mk4

      Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

      That phrase is from a long time ago when IBM was building very reliable computers (mainframes and minis) and indeed as another poster has noted carried out a lot of hand-holding to make sure they worked for the customer (and IBM made a lot of money). Unfortunately IBM didn't adapt as everything moved to PCs and x86 servers so they ended up making very good stuff that no-one wanted any more, and then made a hash of switching to PCs and x86 servers (and so they sold those parts off to Lenovo).

      For many years IBM has been just another IT vendor with all the same problems as other IT vendors.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

        To be fair their Servers PC's and Laptops were also mostly great products - just Dell and HP made "good enough" ones.

        1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

          I saw an early HP PC clone when my company was evaluating for inclusion in our product. 1980s. Pre-Compaq. It was frikken amazing. Solid build, gold plated EVERYTHING. No corners cut, it actually weighed more than the other clones.

          The HP I was running in the 1990s was constantly breaking down. I frequently had to pull the cover off to reseat the memory. It was awful.

          HP used to have a well-deserved reputation for quality.

          1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

            Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

            I remember doing an evaluation on an HP PC back in the early 90's with a touch screen ... 20+ years later Microsoft seem to have gotten around to using them too.

          2. JLV Silver badge

            Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

            Perhaps, but I also seem to recall that in their early days HPs had a well-deserved reputation amongst PC enthusiasts about being less compatible than most. BIOS, extension cards, chips, that kinda thing.

            Kinda like Sony.

      2. stephanh Silver badge

        Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

        Actually they still make mainframes and minis but their marketing is quite effective in hushing it up.

        For example, at pub400.com you can get a free account to play around with IBM I (aka AS/400, what IBM calls their "midrange" OS). Now this is cool, but it is hosted by a company called RKZH, *not* by IBM.

        So why doesn't IBM hand out some free accounts for non-commercial use to nerds like me? Hey IBM, you know, if more people actually *knew* about your products you might sell some more.

      3. ps2os2

        Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

        IBM's network (here in the states) has a lousy uptime number. The Mainframe keeps chugging along at .999999 percent uptime. Of course IBM is using INTEL now and it is showing (and not in a good way).

      4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Nobody got fired for buying IBM-

        "IBM ... carried out a lot of hand-holding to make sure they worked for the customer"

        For sure. Back in the day we operated quite a bit of AS/400 kit, and the IBM rep swerved by regularly, probably once a fortnight to check in, and chat with us and the head of service.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given the great privatised British train system, isn't £75 equal to about 20 miles?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      as opposed to the public owned train service, where was a case of "I'll be there sometime in the next week.....hopefully. Please excuse the smell of diesel, vomit and piss when I arrive"

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        @Lost All Faith.. Plenty of vom & p on privatised train system, diesel a plenty too (lots of journeysl nowhere near electrified lines), just costs a lot more (& the trains I get are often delayed & standing room only)

      2. tin 2

        I'm not sure I noticed the difference between this description and now.

      3. Christoph Silver badge

        "as opposed to the public owned train service"

        Like East Coast, which were far more successful and gave far better service than the privatised lines, and were therefore embarrassing and got sold off to Virgin?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          >Like East Coast, which were far more successful and gave far better service than the privatised lines, and were therefore embarrassing and got sold off to Virgin?

          Being Pedantic, Virgin East Coast and Virgin West Coast are two distinct companies. West Coast is owned by Virgin Group (51%) and Stagecoach (49%), while East Coast is 90% Stagecoach and 10% Virgin Group.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "as opposed to the public owned train service, where was a case of "I'll be there sometime in the next week.....hopefully."

        British Rail - "We're Getting There [eventually]"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Given the great privatised British train system, isn't £75 equal to about 20 miles?"

      Due to the wonderful nature of advance rail fares, it can be cheaper to travel 150 miles from point A to point B going via point C than to travel 40 miles directly from point A to point C. And if you buy an advance ticket from point A to point B, but get off at point C instead, it is possible to be prosecuted in a civil court....

      Aren't train fares brilliant!

    3. Rob D. Bronze badge

      My return flight to Hamburg next week is £42 (Easyjet MAN-HAM). My return train ticket to the airport at Manchester is £47 from Shropshire.

      1. Fursty Ferret

        If you think that you can fly to Hamburg and back for £42 and that someone down the line isn't getting screwed, you can't really criticise the prices of British railway providers.

        I hate advance tickets on railways because I'm neither a pensioner nor unemployed so can't book years ahead to get the cheap rates.

  5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. sebt
      Pirate

      KZZZZZZZT!

  6. James 51 Silver badge

    Wasn't IBM's reputation built on rock solid hardware and hand holding when things went wrong?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup. They stopped doing most of the hardware a while back, and now they're not going to be doing the hand holding either. Not that IBM's X86 stuff was actually all that rock solid, but it certainly wasn't the worst available.

      IBM now seem to be solely focusing on the business area with the biggest margins - price gouging their clients for managing projects. They've even stepped back from providing technical staff to deliver these projects - mostly they're delivered by third parties now. The executives don't seem to realise that they only got the cushy contracts of yesteryear because they used to be able to offer the complete package within one vendor - hardware, support and project delivery.

      The way they're going, in a few years all IBM will be useful for is as a case study about what happens when beancounters overwhelm a company.

      1. stephanh Silver badge

        A case study which will unfortunately be mostly ignored.

      2. ps2os2

        Around 1995 I was working for a company that had decided to buy a new MainFrame. I needed some numbers for a report I was doing for management, so I called our "local" IBM rep. He informed me that in order to get the numbers I needed we would have to get a contract for IBM to supply the numbers. It went down hill after that. The people IBM brought in were non IBM types and wouldn't talk to the customer unless we signed anoth contract. I brought this issue to my boss and he almost had a heart attack. He called up the IBM rep and was told the same thing. IBM came withing an inch to loosing a sale over that.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Mainframe, not MainFrame.

          Downhill, not down hill

          another, not anoth

          Within an inch of, not withing an inch to

          Losing, not loosing.

          Sorry, an otherwise excellent post which made me squint trying to understand it. On a related note, I'm fun at parties.

          1. Eltonga
            Devil

            @LordElpuss

            On which kind of parties, if we may know?

            1. It's Broken Mate

              At, not on.

        2. paulf Silver badge
          Holmes

          @ ps2os2 "IBM came withing [sic] an inch to [sic] loosing [sic] a sale over that."

          Frankly, the reason IBM did all that shenanigans and pissing about is it didn't change the eventual outcome - they still got the sale no matter how close it may have been.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The way they're going, in a few years all IBM will be useful for is as a case study about what happens when beancounters overwhelm a company."

        Fun thing is that now the beancounter companies (the Big Four) are the ones hoarding technical resources. Not that it will last for long, it's in the beancounter very nature to shake off anything not beancounting-related, but meanwhile it's interesting to see them recognize that after all, not all tech things are a money waste.

    2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Not really. IBM was a highly successful marketing firm who sold computers.

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So they want customer friendly engineers to turn up to corporate shindigs but won't pay travel costs? Probably won't be paying overtime either!!!

    It's strange (not !!) that higher-ups on their over-inflated salaries and company cars think that the lesser beings (yes, those who do the actual work and bring in the money) should use their own money to benefit the company so the directors get a bigger bonus.

    Seen it in various banks that I worked for - why am I putting in an overtime bill for working all day Saturday and Sunday when a senior manager/director hasn't? Er, cos they're paid enough you feckin' moron !!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Overtime? What's that? In IBM land you get time in lieu but not one for one. Time in lieue is at manager discretion and it's not uncommon for them to offer 1 hour time in lieue for 8 hours work. That's assuming you can actually take it nowadays with so few local staff it hurts the rest of the team if you take the time you have accrued. I still have a week's worth of time (at the going rate of 1 hour for 8 hours labour) from 2016 and I've seen people RA'd who have had far more time owed to them because they'd been working ridiculous hours trying to keep projects afloat.

      At the moment, there is a freeze on contractor renewals (we are told it's global) so we've lost 3 people in as many weeks. The resulting escalations from the customer resulted in the manager (and two levels above them which had to then be approved by my geographic region head) getting approval to pay overtime (capped at 20 hours) for three weeks worth of work for a team whose members are already working up to 80 hours every week. We had approval for two additional contractors that had nearly completed before the freeze hit and just made our offers when we were told we couldn't hire them. I've heard of other local teams who also had new contract hires about to start get canned including one who got canned the night before he was due to start.

      1. cd / && rm -rf *

        "Overtime? What's that?"

        "1 hour time in lieue for 8 hours work"

        "seen people RA'd who have had far more time owed to them because they'd been working ridiculous hours"

        "freeze on contractor renewals"

        "getting approval to pay overtime (capped at 20 hours) for three weeks worth of work"

        "working up to 80 hours every week"

        "got canned the night before he was due to start"

        IBM is fucked. You're fucked. Get out while you can still get a good reference.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Happy

          Get out while you can still get a good there's still someone left to give you a reference.

          FTFY

      2. DainB Bronze badge

        All I can say is your manager definitely deserves a hefty pay rise for making you and your team work for free.

  8. leon clarke

    So...

    No travel unless explicitly required by the contract. Suppose you're thinking of buying something from IBM, but you worry that (as happens on all big contracts) there'll be occasional times when a few misunderstandings will happen and need to be smoothed over quickly before the misunderstandings escalate and become a big problem. What needs to happen in this situation is that the IBM guy hops over and has a chat with your boss; it's all sorted out and the proverb continues to be true 'no-one ever got fired for buying IBM'. Now you know that the IBM guy won't hop over until your boss has sent in the lawyers and we might need a new proverb.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: So...and we might need a new proverb

      No corporate lawyer ever got fired because someone bought IBM?

    2. JLV Silver badge
      Trollface

      new proverb?

      'no-one ever got hired for buying IBM'

  9. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge

    So why choose IBM, then?

    If this is going to be their modus operandi going forward, what is it that makes IBM something special above any other IT company?

    If somebody is going to remote into my system to change/fix/configure something, it might as well be a Bangladeshi on £3 an hour. As long as the work gets done, why would I care?

    So why should I choose IBM?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So why choose IBM, then?

      Because IBM also, entirely by coincidence, have a few thousand south asian bodies to sell you. Convenient, that, innit?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So why choose IBM, then?

      I guess because you weren't to know that this was happening and you weren't supposed to know that you'll never see an onsite tech again.

      Now you do know, you can make your supplier decision based upon that knowledge.

      However, what major supplier will provide the required level of service, you'd truly expect? Even when the going rate is £1000~£1500 per day for a 'tech' or an 'installer' you often get someone with about as much knowledge as what you have by reading the manual (their solution don't produce manuals).

      Many many suppliers suck, many many consultants are not worth their fee, many many support contracts never provide value for money but anything above the SME level, especially in anything where you are in an 'industry sector' and you seem to end up having no choice. And the choice you do make often ties you in forever more due to the work required to get out of it.

      It would be great to have honest major software companies who really aren't out to screw you over and extract as much money as possible to satisfy their continual growth and keep the shareholders happy. If only a large software/services company really did give a damn about their end customers.

      </rant>

  10. AMBxx Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Travel costs

    This business of separating out everything into different budgets tends to have unexpected side effects.

    Years ago, I lived about 30 minutes from Gatwick Airport. To save costs, employer insisted I travelled from Luton via Easyjet.

    Return taxi trip to Luton more than made up for the cost difference of the flights - no way I'm doing a 3 hour drive at 5am.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Travel costs

      I used to fly from Bristol to a client in Newcastle, my [then] glorious employer "clamped down" on travel expenses, so "NO MORE FLYING" we're told, cue 10 hour return trip on a train, with a ticket that's more expensive than the 90 minute return flight.

      "NO MORE TAXIS IN LONDON" - taxi ride was 20-25 mins from the station to this particular client, tube involved walking between stations [10-15 mins] and a walk to the client's office [15-20 mins], on a very bad day, over an hour and in the effing rain. From then on I "discovered" that I suffered from anxiety when on a crowded tube, you know with terrorism and all that... TAXI!

      Accountants, they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. I had previously thought it was only public sector accountants that viewed salaries as a fixed cost that was already paid, so therefore my time has no value.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Travel costs

        I have a current customer who views employees as a 'wooden cost' or something. If I charge for 2 hours to do something that saves an employee 2 hours every day, they don't see it as good value as they'd have to pay the employee any way. The notion of the employee doing something more useful seems to pass them by.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Travel costs

        "Accountants, they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. "

        My experience of internal accountants is that they think all travel is a jolly nice perk and resent other people doing it. The solution is probably to send them off to a few conferences in shitholes. I remember the deep resentment of one of them when I was sent to a job in pre-modern South Africa at short notice - he tried to nickel and dime the travel when the customer was paying and was deeply annoyed when the customer MD bent the ear of our MD and said that waiting three days for a cheap ticket wasn't good enough.

        He was even more resentful when I came back having worked two 80 hour weeks for which I got double overtime, and he couldn't even quibble because the customer paid up without a murmur.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Travel costs

          "The solution is probably to send them off to a few conferences in shitholes.' - I worked for a company one whom's major markets was sewage treatment plant. At one point I had been to some many shit plants that I could tell the difference between treatment types by the sludge's smell. Now ship that worthless POS bean counter to one these sites for a 2 week stint.

      3. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Travel costs

        Anxiety attack defense? Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Have a beer

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Travel costs

      My employer, think a major UK operator of tanks, fast jets, and ships, is far more enlightened. Not for them insisting on the cheapest method of transportation oh no, for presentational reasons you must always use economy even if you can get a first class ticket cheaper.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Travel costs

      >Years ago, I lived about 30 minutes from Gatwick Airport. To save costs, employer insisted I travelled from Luton via Easyjet.

      "Further, the GTS exec said bulk travel requests should not exceed one calendar month ahead and “should be absolutely minimised”. In addition, “all flights” need to be signed off by her."

      Years ago, I worked within 30 minutes of Luton, the UK was their EMEA centre of exellence in a number of key areas. The company, HQ near Heathrow implemented a similar missive. We naturally, started submitting all our Easyjet/RyanAir travel requests to HQ - we soon got exempted as they realised it was a total waste of their time signing off sub £10 airfares to Europe and if we booked in advance the fares were often £1...

  11. Smooth Newt Silver badge
    Holmes

    So...

    Have they carefully estimated the cost in lost time for employees to do all this form-filling and the layers of management to process the forms, the possible impact on sales after customers find the level of support and personal contact has dropped off, and the chilling effects on the business around all this, and also set up monitoring mechanisms to check the validity of these estimates?

    Or have they just applied the bean-counter's logic of "if you cut your feet off you will save lots of money on shoes"?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: So...

      Obviously not. Any costs that cannot be billed to the customer can almost always be offset against tax so moves like this are usually driven by short term crap, presumably sales are well below target, rather than anything a good accountant would recommend.

      Good way to piss of your customers though. I was recently chatting to a friend who works at an aluminium rolling plant which is IBM through and through. Support is expensive but it is also guaranteed to be same day and given the costs associated with even just an hour's standstill, cheap. It takes years to build up relationships like that but you can end them with a single, stupid memo.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      "the layers of management"

      You mean the layers of management's 'executive assistants' who actually process all the approvals these days. Where I work all travel requests for a short period had to go to 'God' but nobody believes for a minute that he actually ever looked at any of them. And nor did any of the layers of execs below him.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to work for IBM and to be honest, this is nothing new. They've done this plenty of times before.

    Any travel had to be submitted in a cumbersome (think Lotus Notes) tool and that went through various levels of management who presumably had nothing better to do than read travel requests.

    So it would be the case that a customer, who had probably paid a six- or seven-digit number for a services engagement, would request my presence at the other end of the country a day or two in advance. Yes, in many instances, the meeting would be quite feasible by conference call, but if the customer is paying, has requested the travel and has agreed to pay for the travel then surely it would make sense just to go along with the customer's request and jump at the chance to show willing and top-quality service.

    Not IBM. In such a situation the tool must be used. Which meant wasting a day chasing up whichever senior exec had the authority to sign off the travel request. This would typically happen some time in the evening as believe it or not, these people do actually go to meetings themselves (usually to try and work out another nonsensical way of reducing costs). By which point it was too late to catch an off-peak train and get a hotel in order to arrive refreshed in the morning. So it would be last-minute expensive plane ticket and flight at the crack of dawn to arrive just on time at the meeting, bleary-eyed through lack of sleep.

    And that was just the start of the fun. Submitting the expenses would result in another chain of events questioning why I didn't simply get the train. So more hours and days wasted trying to get expenses through.

    In the end I gave up and just started to tell my customers the truth. Meanwhile I searched for and found a way out (yes I'm one of the many who took the cash and ran).

    If you're a small customer who isn't locked into organisations like this, then get your services from a small, independent company. Many of them have some very skilled people and will do the job for a fraction of the price. Of course, many of them are chancers so make sure you get references. That said, there are still some very skilled people who work for IBM and love their work but hate their employer. They are inevitably underpaid and morale is close to zero now. Take your pick.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a fellow ex-IBMer I can confirm that this is nothing new. Moratoria on incurring travel-related expences happened all the time - probably at least once a year. Presumably it's triggerred every time a beancounter realises one of his cost-sutting KPIs is going to be missed for the quarter.

      I still have fond memories of the time they banned purchases of stationery until the end of the year. Apparently the bill for new pencils was running out of control. Oh, how we laughed...

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: nothing new

      It's not uncommon to stamp on the discretionary expenditure brakes when it looks like the quarterly target is going to be missed. However, IBM has now missed so many of them I suspect it won't be long before they're rationing the toilet paper - and still failing to meet their unrealistic numbers.

      1. PNGuinn Silver badge
        Boffin

        rationing the toilet paper

        Nah - that's so last century.

        Get with it - we're into recycling now.

        Corporate gob-speak and all that.

      2. smudge Silver badge

        Re: nothing new

        It happens everywhere - not just IBM. In one company I worked for, we knew how well we were doing according to whether the (hired) potted plants in the office were still with us or had been taken away.

        Another time, a PHB thought they could save money by not providing cardboard cups at the coffee machines. Everyone could use their own mugs. But someone then pointed out that a mug holds more coffee than than a paper cup...

        The one I always anticipated but which never happened was the request to charge up laptops at home and run them off the batteries in the office. I offer that to any beancounters reading this.

        And finally there is my favourite Dilbert of all time - http://dilbert.com/strip/1995-08-24

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: nothing new

          This just gave me an idea - next time I'm short on disk space I might as well just delete that giant space hog folder, "windows" or something* it was I think - I'm sure it's nothing useful anyway...

          * replace with "/bin" as desired

    3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      "Any travel had to be submitted in a cumbersome (think Lotus Notes) tool "

      I recall booking a hotel for a course through such a tool, and when I checked in, being told by said IBM approved hotel chain, they didn't accept the IBM issued credit card I had. (Diners Club at the time).

      Another time said Hotel booking tool suggested a hotel that was £200 a night, but it did accept Diners Club,.... problem being it was a 'charge card' and I was going to be away for eight nights, so £1600 for the hotel, plus travel and food on the card, to be re-paid by me, then reimbursed through expenses. I just couldn't afford to be down two grand until the expenses run (which were not monthly at that point).

  13. werdsmith Silver badge

    I have discovered that the best way to avoid the pain and torment of trying to claim expenses is to not incur them in the first place. If I go anywhere I get all the travel and accommodation up front through our retained travel agent , which costs about triple what is a reasonable price.

    If people were more reasonable I would pick my own cheaper flights and accommodation deals but it's not worth it.

  14. JustAnotherPoster

    Employees working "shoulder to shoulder".... probably literally. Instead of management. Who obviously need their own offices.... because right ?

  15. TRT Silver badge

    "...includes participation by our resources..."

    You know what you are now. No longer a person.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: "...includes participation by our resources..."

      That is the criteria to become a manager: http://dilbert.com/strip/2017-02-15

  16. EastFinchleyite

    Nothing new here.

    I have worked in a similar environment albeit temporarily as an outside contractor. Some regular staff ended up paying their own expenses because if you claimed to your manager that you couldn't do your job without a visit that was not authorised by the higher level rules then you were marked down for attitude, achievement and thus bonuses. The managers wanted to tell their bosses that "Yes, I have cut costs AND met all my targets and more!" You don't get to be a PHB without being illegitimate (site rules say I can't swear)

    If this sort of thing becomes embedded in the company culture the best and brightest leave. The less talented, older staff, and those that are less job mobile, reluctantly stay and things go from bad to worse.

    Getting the customer to pay for a site visit because it costs more than £75 sounds fun; I would really like to hear that conversation, and as for exemption for internal auditors and business control personnel, well that just about sums it up.

  17. Stork Bronze badge

    I am so happy I left them

    When my then employer was bought by IBM there was a fancy (and _very_ good) coffee machine on site, one of those that cost ~12k (EUR/USD/GBP) and had a maintenance contract with a guy coming to clean and fill newly roasted coffee on.

    IBM could not figure which account to put this on, so it was not in use for a month. Before IBM, someone would have decided and sorted the paperwork afterwards. Beancounters (but not coffee beans)

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: I am so happy I left them

      Is that coffee machine available somewhere for sale of used office appliances?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: I am so happy I left them

        Quite likely.

        I keep an eye on the various office clearance auction houses for this kind of thing.

        Got some rather good kit that way.

  18. Alan1kiwi

    Indian Business Machines could do well to take advantage of Camels. Ok, they aren't going to work so good in Central London, but they might work ok in Texas. (Thinking globally) :-)

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Nothing enlivens the day...

      ...like a bit of gratuitous racism.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Quite the opposite.

      Indian Business Machines could do well to take advantage of Camels. Ok, they aren't going to work so good in Central London, but they might work ok in Texas. (Thinking globally) :-)

      Camels would be useless for intercity travel in Texas (Austin to San Antonio is 84 miles. Houston to El Paso is 745 miles). Even in cities they won't work so well due to the low density compared to European cities and the rise of the suburban office parks.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's Been Monetized

    Remember the B stands for Business, which is only about making MONEY.

    To avoid it becoming "It Bankrupted Me" any business not making a decent margin and increasing sales must reduce costs to avoid Bankruptcy. IBM is a long way from that for the moment. If you are going to work for a firm do remember that you are only a resource to the business, in the same manner as s/w, h/w and IP. You may not want to admit it but even the executive are only a resource. IBM has the decency not to lie to you by pretending your are an associate or similar. Having said that how we are treated does matter and it is sad the way things have turned out.

    I am also ex-IBM and reluctantly took the money and ran. If you value yourself then make the right decision for you. If you can do better elsewhere then do it now as you only get one life; if you can't then prepare for the day when you are RA'd. Don't waste your time complaining as this won't save you.

    Good luck to you all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's Been Monetized

      If you start a business and sell a lot of promises that you don't keep, you'll make a lot of money in the short term and as word gets out, you will soon find that you no longer sell anything apart from to mugs who haven't heard the news.

      This is IBM's current mode of operation.

  20. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Its that deja vu all over again

    I really feel for the IBM'ers who work with and actually give a damn about their customers. 'I'm sorry, Jack, but my head shed says I cannot drive out there. Tell you what, get a #2 Phillips and follow along... Hello? Jack????'

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quick question -

    What does "RA'd" mean?

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      Re: Quick question -

      Resource Actioned.

      Hr for sacked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Quick question -

        Thank you (both) for answering my question - and WTF???? It sounds like some marketing bod has moved into HR and bought over his buzzword marketing bollocks over with him!

        1. EastFinchleyite

          Re: Quick question -

          It all started going down the tubes when Personnel Departments renamed themselves Human Resources and elevated themselves to a Profession. Next thing we had HR people infiltrating themselves into technical considerations and decisions along with Financial Accountants and before long they ended up running the business.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quick question -

      Laid off. They call it resource action to make you feel worse about it.

    3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Quick question -

      As stated 'Resource Action'. Also, if you see the phrase 'skills rebalancing' that means the same.

  22. FordPrefect

    All very short sighted. Regular face to face contact with customer stakeholders significantly improves customer satisfaction in my experience in the industry. Saving a few thousand per contract could lead to contract termination later down the line. You'd be surprised how even the worst f*ck ups are smoothed over by a 1-hour face to face.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exemptions

    all non-client travel is prohibited with the exemption of internal auditors and business control personnel

    Doesn't "Business Control Personnel" equal all managers and above? Maybe VP and above.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exemptions

      >> Doesn't "Business Control Personnel" equal all managers and above? Maybe VP and above.

      Business ControlS Personel - subtle difference. In IBM-speak refers to those looking into contract performance (or, at least equally frequently non-performance) - which includes complying with IBM's internal rules - and Internal Audit etc. By no means all managers as the functions involved needs lots of go-fers, and much of BC was compiling frequent and regular reports, checking and double checking (and then the checkers being checked again).

      As I recall, the nomination of a contract team to be the subject of IA would effectively disrupt the contract's (or other unit) business operations team for months and during the auditor's visit virtually the whole extended management team would either be attending the audit or running the supporting "war room". Of course, in those days everybody (team, Auditors, Business Controls ...) converged into a single location at whatever cost it took - and deepening on the size of the department or contract it could take a week or more!

      Spent best part of ten years in a team that wasn't Business Controls but doing much the same thing under the pretence of being the team's friends by performing "Project Management Reviews" as one part of the job.

      Went back to a more customer focused semi-technical role when the assurance team were forced to focus on only the "Risk Management" (basically to IBM's bottom line) parts of the job and took their money and ran when VR was offered (a couple of years ago when it was still worth it).

      A/C for obvious reasons.

  24. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I once did a two week training course in Albany NY and needed to claim the costs of traveling from NYC. My employer would only reimburse the cost of an Amtrak ticket even if I drove. I used the train, but somehow the first return ticket detached from the expense claim, leaving only the two NYC-Albany tickets and the final Albany-NYC ticket. My expense claim was denied and I appealed, leading to the following conversation:

    Them: You only supplied evidence of three journeys.

    Me: But two of them were from NYC to Albany. I must have come back, yes?

    Them: Yeees ...

    Me: and you would reimburse me the ticket price if I drove, right?

    Them: Yeees ...

    Me: And you don't require any documentation for gas or tolls, right?

    Them: That's right.

    Me: So what do you care? I've demonstrated that I made four journeys, one of which could have been by Concorde for all you care since under the rules you will only pay the going rate for a train ticket and you only require evidence of a train trip, not of gas expenditure or airplane tickets. The train tickets I supplied show the going rate. Therefore I should be reimbursed for four trips.

    Them. Okay.

    To this day I have no idea why the bean counter couldn't do that math himself. He knew I'd appeal the decision and he caved in like a cheap suitcase in sparrow's fart time. Maybe he was lonely and needed the conversation.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP and Pencils

    There was a company-wide email circa 2007 from the COO asking employees to cut back on pencils. They wouldn't do that in a printer would they .... oh!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HP and Pencils

      I was once told by a bankruptcy beancounter that the last sign of a company on its way to having all four legs sticking stiffly up in the air was when they stopped replenishing the stationery cupboard to cut costs. Because by the time they got to that level of cost-management it was nearly always too late.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HP and Pencils

        On one occasion the first sign was when we were banned from ordering biscuits for meetings except when an outsider attended. Many people even brought their own packs of biscuits with them, you know who you are :-)

        An unacknowledged side effect was that I lost a stone in the ensuing months.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HP and Pencils

        IBM was doing that when I was there and I left three years ago. The stationary cupboards were never stocked unless you wanted an old PS/2 keyboard, some expenses envelopes and a few old copies of OS/2.

        We used to dream of pens and paper...

        1. stephanh Silver badge

          Re: HP and Pencils

          You realize that old PS/2 keyboards are nowadays highly sought-after collector items which easily go > $100,-?

          That could have paid for a lot of pencils.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: HP and Pencils

            Re: IBM PS/2 keyboards

            These were hard to come by in circa 2002, however the IBM data entry grade AT keyboards were a hidden gem: £100+ keyboard being sold for sub-£10 because they only had the 1/2-inch 5-pin DIN connector; mine are still going strong and spare is still on the shelf.

        2. ricardian

          Re: HP and Pencils

          My cousin worked for the UK Inland Revenue department. He got promoted in the early 1960s and was moved to a new city where he had his very own office. There was a locked cabinet in the office but no key could be found. My cousin got a locksmith to break into the cabinet and it was found to be absolutely crammed full of envelopes and those sticky return labels, all marked "On His Majesty's Service".

          Presumably somebody somewhere thought "Eventually these will be valid once again".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just IBM

    We also have a near annual moratorium on business travel, as do a few other companies I'm aware of. Doesn't usually affect me, as there's often a contract, signed in blood, for my time (in person) with the customer. For everything else, it's a very easy way to cut costs (sometimes quite significantly) in a hurry, when there's a risk of the kind of targets the Street likes not being met. Sometimes saves a little blood on the carpet :-/.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fellow ex-beemer

    Countless ways to save money rather than put stupid restrictions on people that damage customer relationships:

    -Keep your skilled experienced people and stop replacing them with grads.

    -Stop rewarding failure in the exec ranks and use the money to skill people up.

    -Stop producing vapor-ware for the frankly stupid Think40 initiative - skill people up.

    -Fire half the managers in a Russian roulette - they are all as bad as each other.

    -Stop looking for ways to screw your employees out of commission and bonuses. There is a shocking amount of work that goes into making sure managers don't give 100% of the pay rise pot.

    -Get rid of the actual useless dead wood of which there is a lot.

    -Stop defrauding employees out of pensions and benefits - they sue you.

    -Fairly sure the inventive accounting that claims a system upgrade on customer site is 'cloud' will bite them in the ass sooner than later.

    I could go on but you get the point. IBM continues to saw the branch they are sitting on.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not our money, but waste the customers'

    Got out nearly 3 years ago, no pay-off just found a better job (despite IBM GBS's we'll match-that-offer...too late greedy suckers...).

    Every time they rolled-out this cost-control rule I panicked. But then I realised they only really cared about IBM's costs. Not the customers'. If they were paying....well, find, fill your boots, get that late-booked flight and go. Still had to comply with the laughable "IBM-approved" hotel list and tight-as-a-nat's-chuff sustenance rules. The main point was "our money ? not a chance ! customer paying ? who cares !".

    I hated the cheapness, particularly to us who were travelling far and wide away from families all week, every week, just to be either RA'd like a piece of rubbish or fobbed off with "you are so valuable you 1 and 2+ performers, you can have a 1% bonus and retention payment".

    25% more pay, home every night, and not treated like shit later....glad I left.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £75?!

    Here at DXC travel must have prior approval if it costs more than £0

    It's a total waste of money because they are contractually within their rights to withhold reimbursement for out-of-policy expenses. So it's a load more forms for no reason whatsoever --- it just means their beancounters have to check every expense twice, once when proposed and once when incurred; and similarly, I have to record them all twice.

    1. Number6

      Re: £75?!

      One place I worked would give you a cash advance for travel. Usual trick was to get a hundred quid for a particular journey, drive your own car, claim mileage and then submit a claim for what was about £76 along with a cheque for the balance. If anyone wanted to argue it (not usual for a 'standard' trip) the the cheque remained uncashed and in the meantime you had use of their money. Noticeable cost of the journey was less than a tank of petrol, so it was a nice little trick as a poor junior engineer to get the boss to agree that a visit to another company site was needed whenever one of us was short of cash. Eventually the company wised up and inked in a deal with a local car hire place so we had to use the car provided and therefore couldn't claim mileage any more. The popularity of trips dropped right down after that for some reason, and it was about then that I left the company anyway.

  30. Scubaman66

    Interesting how different worlds apart various sectors are.

    The only time I've ever been hauled over the coals in regards to my expenses was in 2006 when I worked at an institutional investment consultancy specialising in the Lloyds/London Market.

    I was called into the Chairman/Founder's' office and given an almighty bollocking because I hadn't maxxed out my company credit card that month and therefore obviously hadn't spent enough time with clients (this was despite the fact that I'd just recorded a record month for new business)

    1. Korev Silver badge

      I had a vendor tell me off because I wasn't allowed to accept lunch from him; he said that his manager had told to spend more money entertaining customers. This wasn't IBM, but another similar company that also appears to be circling the drain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh, rest-assured that IBM still has money to pay for entertaining customers and prospects. They will even drag along techie folk to watch, with the strict instruction that they must not participate.

  31. Number6

    Work To Rule

    A place I worked at long ago, we'd get missives from HQ about some stupid new procedure and the general approach of everyone one site (usually including the management) was either to ignore it as much as possible if it was going to make things worse, or implement it thoroughly and to the letter on some important HQ-visible project. Usually when that went down the tubes the directive would be rescinded.

    Another place wanted to impose a new purchasing system that would 'cut requisition approval times from a month to a week'. Our site was all WTF? because our local process typically took a few hours, so this was a step backward. We eventually got a compromise where we were all given a signing authority which was actually much higher than the informal one we'd been using so the small stuff didn[t need approval from anyone else at all. This was also when I learned that large US companies don't trust their employees not to rip off the company - news to those of us working in a responsible professional British environment and helped us understand the reasoning behind all the bureaucratic crap emanating from across the pond.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Work To Rule

      Problem with IBM and a lot of other US companies is that its just a control put in place by the accountants which is applied generically. Suggesting that they actually don't trust the employees is actually suggesting they care about what the employees do at all. They don't. You are just a number.

      IBM is literally run by accountants who's missives get implemented for good or ill by the management who have no spine. All this to make sure Ginni & Co get their bonus. What matters is EPS and dividend payments. All else including cust sat, r&d, work life balance, quality control etc etc means jack.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think customers would be happy to buy from a company that is considerate about how it spends the money that the customer has paid to them.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBM Grads

    Latest on the RA front; all IBM UK grads received an email yesterday essentially asking them to describe their job, their revenue achievement to date, what they did for their manager and finally to answer the question "what would happen if you weren't here"

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