The Free Dog is Never Free

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The Free Dog is Never Free

The idea of getting something for nothing has been around for centuries. One always have to question the real motive behind providers offering something for what appears to be no extra cost.

· Agile Zone ·
Free Resource

I was having a discussion with fellow technologist Timothy and he ended up telling me a story from his college days.

In this story, his roommate arrived back at their apartment with a dog. The roommate was excited, but Timothy did not match his level of enthusiasm over the newest member of their household.

To ease Timothy's reservations, the roommate told him how this dog was procured at no cost to him. It was a free dog.

"That dog was not a free dog." Timothy told me as he continued the story.

The "free" dog tore up items in their apartment that needed to be repaired or replaced. Timothy and his roommate spent time and money trying to secure a place for the dog when it went outside. They spent even more of their time chasing down the dog, when it escaped — adding numerous apologies to upset neighbors along the way.

That dog was not a free dog.

Free Dogs in Technology

There are times when I have run into "free" offerings in my career within Information Technology:

  • a consulting company will include a free resource (project manager or architect) when committing to a number of project team members

  • a software company will include a free product when purchasing or renewing another product

  • a vendor may offer free training and certification exam fees if you sign their partnership agreement

In each case, there can be unexpected costs that one would not have endured otherwise:

  • when compared to alternative consultant offerings, you may realize the rate for the "free" resource is blended into the rate of the non-free team member(s)

  • after the "free" product license/subscription expires, the hope is that you continue to license the additional products (now not free)

  • the vendor expects the training/certification to drive efforts to sell the underlying solution to clients

Is Free Ever Good?

In the examples above, the "free" term had a negative slant to it. However, that does not have to always be the case:

  • the project may require the free resource that is included and be considered a cost-savings when compared to alternative options

  • you were planning to implement the free product anyway, so this, too, is a cost-saver if only for a short time period

  • if your team wishes to drive implementation of the vendor's solution, this is considered a win-win for all parties involved


For Timothy, the free dog was certainly not free and it further confirmed his thought that they really didn't need a dog in their apartment. After all, they were college students working hard to obtain their degrees in order to become productive technologists in the marketplace.

Alternatively, if Timothy wanted a dog for his two kids, the free dog could have been the perfect addition to his family — especially since his home has an ample, fenced-in backyard with plenty of room for a dog to explore.

When encountering what appears to be a free offering, one must evaluate the current situation to see if there are long-term benefits or unexpected costs associated with the item in question.

Have a really great day!

agile adoption, cost analysis, free, software

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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