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Thursday, April 1, 2004

Luxury Life-Cycle Management

April 1, 2004 — It’s been four years since the bursting of the tech bubble, and software development managers are fast approaching the time when many of our most prized developer tools will need upgrades or replacements. I speak, of course, of luxury goods, many of which were last purchased in 1998 or 1999 using vested stock options.

Clearly, our industry faces challenges in addressing consumer-product life-cycle issues, given the fact that bonuses have been slashed, current options are under water, and a daily regimen of 93-octane 24-valve engines has been replaced by the South Beach Diet.

In other words, go-go consumerism is dead, and carb-counting is the new business reality. Thus, we must carefully ponder our luxury-goods budgets with an eye toward receiving maximum value and the greatest return on investment.

Take transportation. Many of us are stuck driving vehicles that exceed 50,000 miles. To continue showing up at the office in, for example, a 1997 Land Rover Discovery or 2000 Porsche Boxster would tell top management that we’ve fallen off the CIO fast track.

So, what to buy? With an eye toward maximizing date-acquisition potential and perceived value, consider the new Mazda RX8. With a starting MSRP of US$25,180 to $26,680, you can easily afford the payments (be sure to hide the coupons), while talking up the history of the Mazda RX series and the benefits of its unique 1.3-liter rotary engine technology, which generates 238 horsepower and 159 ft.-lbs. of torque. On second thought, don’t talk about the torque on that car.

In the compact sport-utility department, the BMW X3 is a fine upstart, with an MSRP of only $30,300 to $36,300. While the fit-and-finish on those vehicles isn’t up to BMW’s usual standards, the impressive nameplate will inspire confidence in your superiors and envy in your minions.

Alas, we can’t turn back the clock. If only the economy and NASDAQ stock index were performing at early-2000 levels, those of us who prefer to ride in true comfort would enjoy the new 225-inch Maybach Type 57 (MSRP: $305,500), or even the 242-inch Maybach Type 62 (MSRP: $357,000).

Who wouldn’t love that 550-horsepower V-12 with 663 ft.-lbs. of torque? But instead, we must fall back to, say, the equally new Jaguar XJR, which at $59,830 to $75,330 is a veritable steal. Tip: Be sure to opt for the 390- horsepower 4.2-liter V-8, which offers a reasonable 399 ft.-lbs.of torque.

Now that we’ve straightened out your ride, let’s address a more timely matter — the timepiece. The dressy Movado Classic Museum that you’ve been proud of is, to be blunt, passé.

So is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual; maybe it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile, but it’s your father’s watch. More powerful brands, which demonstrate our modern consumer savvy, include Tag Heuer’s Kirium series and Breitling’s Crosswind or B-1 Professional.

If that still exceeds your options level, you can achieve great looks at minimal expense with Skagen. The downside is titanium is becoming tired, and you do find Skagen advertised in airline magazines. Still, tough times call for desperate measures, and you have my sympathies. (At least it’s better than Timex, or — shudder — Swatch.)

Jewelry is always an important style issue and remains vital, even during an economic recovery. Did you know that U.S. diamond jewelry sales in the fourth quarter of 2003 jumped by nearly 10 percent, to reach $9.27 billion? Much of this increase was due to sales of higher-ticket items. That’s right — larger rocks, better metals and more elaborate settings for both male and female software development managers. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your financial prowess through the proper accoutrements. Hint: Go for the platinum setting, which can lead to many interesting conversations about the use of that precious metal as a catalyst for many important industrial chemical processes.

Shoes are also important fashion accessories, and while they may not make the man or woman, they certainly help us give the impressions we want.

Bear in mind the impact of outsourcing and offshoring on the ranks of middle- and upper-level software development and IT management. If someone’s job is going to get whacked, you don’t want it to be yours. No matter your budget, make sure that your foot apparel demonstrates appeal, and properly shows that you’re too successful and experienced to lay off.

Ladies, consider Robert Cavalli, Jimmy Choo or, if money is tight, Finn Comfort. Gentlemen, look at Bruno Magli or Mezlan. After all, if the shoe fits... buy it!

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