DOORS is not cheap

I am writing this not as owner of Baselines Incorporated but as someone who makes his living doing DOORS work.

While Baselines Inc does keep me busy, I cannot currently make enough from it personally without a full-time job. So even though I do some Requirements Management consulting, I also work DOORS during the day. DOORS has been my day and night job for quite some time. 

I currently do not have a full time job, so I’m out and about searching postings and putting my resume out there. And I’m starting to notice a disturbing (to me, anyway) trend: companies don’t want to pay DOORS admins what they’re worth.

I’ve had a few conversations with recruiters and headhunters saying that I am definitely qualified for the positions they have but the problem is they don’t know if the client will pay the rate. 

The economy is slowing down so prices are down in many sectors. But they aren’t down among all sectors. I worked for a nuclear engineering company last year and in that sector, nuclear engineers are currently very expensive to attain and retain. Why? Because they are specialists.

I’m a specialist too, and as such, my work costs money.

My response to these recruiters and headhunters is always the same, and if any of you out there are ever in my position, I highly recommend this response: “Your client purchased a $10000 per license program. I have a hard time believing that they can’t afford to hire someone who knows how to maintain it.”

It really bothers me that the people who buy DOORS don’t always seem to understand this. Whenever you buy a software package like this, there are always extra costs. We could debate all day whether or not DOORS is truly worth what IBM charges, but that’s not the point. The point is it’s expensive.

I drive an Audi TT. When I take it to the shop and something needs to be replaced, am I surprised that it costs more to fix than my old Saturn SL1 did? 

When customers purchase DOORS, they are told that there is also a yearly maintenance fee that is per license. So the more you lay out initially for DOORS, the more it costs you to maintain DOORS.

To me the whole purpose of DOORS is to help do things right the first time. Requirements Management is a cost center. You do it up front so that at the end of your project things aren’t so expensive to fix. A competent DOORS administrator is the same way. I’ve seen just about everything that can go wrong in a requirements management database. And I’ve had to fix it. And that takes time.

So all you project managers/budgeting types out there using DOORS need to budget for a competent DOORS admin, and this means researching what they make. Sure, you could hand DOORS off to IT and you won’t have the expertise to help plan your schema, but DOORS will be up and running. Do it yourself and you may have install, backup and license issues. And in both cases, you won’t have anyone who readily knows some DXL to make life easier for everyone.

Think about my nuclear engineering example above. College kids studying nuclear engineering are being wooed with $200,000+/yr jobs. Now, a nuclear power plant company could decide to save money and hire regular engineers and train them and possibly come out cheaper in the long run….but probably not.

A colleague of mine who reads this site once said to me that he learned when he was a manager that if he spent $50/hr on a contractor, he got $50/hr worth of work. So many companies don’t flinch when purchasing DOORS, but they don’t think about the total cost of ownership when they make the purchase. And even IBM/Telelogic’s training and consulting fees aren’t exactly cheap. 

If you’re thinking about buying DOORS, remember, DOORS is not for mom and pop shops. When you use DOORS, you’re saying that you’ve got money to compete with the top dogs. Telelogic knew that and thus could charge what they charge. Well, your potential admins also know it, and sure you may be able to train some intern to do DOORS administration, but it will probably cost you big time in the long run.

And if any of you know of any unadvertised openings, feel free to shoot them my way.


  1. I have to agree I noticed the same thing over the last few months while looking for a new position. I actually busted out laughing at one offer because it was so low. Anyway I feel your pain, I’m getting ready to go into negotiations on a short-term contract for a former employer and knowing how they work I’m thinking it’s going to be a battle.

  2. The rate I charge depends on several factors. Is the client in a location that I would like? If not, will the client let me work remotely if they are comfortable with me? Is there a lot of travel involved?

    I will tell you what I consider low. I saw a job posted recently for a DOORS Admin who also is familiar with Synergy for $45/hr. And they *really* wanted someone who knew Perl, I assume to customize certain aspects of Synergy. The site was located about an hour from a major metropolitan area.

    I wrote the headhunter and told him that his rate was really low and he wouldn’t find anyone who was good for that rate, especially if he can’t find someone locally. His response was, yes, the rate was low. But they currently had someone working in the position at that wage and the client wasn’t happy with him.

    My response: “Basically what you’re saying is that your client is getting someone dirt cheap. Your client isn’t happy with this person, but doesn’t want to pay more for someone competent. I don’t know what planet your client is from, but on my planet, quality costs money.”

    This position is also in a sector that is hurting financially right now. I dislike being told that I’m expected to come down because this industry isn’t doing well. Well, when I was in college only making $8/hr, I paid the same for my car that someone making three times what I made would have paid. So I don’t buy that argument either–the cost of a product is set by what the value of that product is worth, not the income of the buyer. If you can afford to use DOORS, you can afford a competent administrator, otherwise you need to be using Word and Excel for Requirements Management.

    To hammer that point, using my car analogy above, I factored in the cost of premium gas when I purchased my Audi. It doesn’t take regular unleaded. I have to get premium. Well, I can still put regular gas in it, but there may be consequences to that. Having a DOORS administrator who is not an expert for complex project or projects is the same way.

    Finally, I wish to say that I know to some people $45/hr is a lot of money. Well, that’s great, but when you factor in having to move and it being a contract position, or worse having to maintain two households and then travel expenses, etc., at the end of the day, $45/hr isn’t worth the time and hassle of changing my life.

  3. I saw the position you are talking about Kevin. And I applied for it. $45/hr is far more than I make now as a full time employee. I realize though that contractors generally make more. But $45/hr would be more than enough for me to pay my bills and save a decent amount.

    Maybe you guys who’ve been in the industry for 10+ years can command $65/hr but for me with 3 years under my belt, $45/hr is pretty good.

    But I never heard back from the guy doing the recruiting for the job after the initial response I got.

  4. David – with your skillset you could make much more than $45/hr, even in the location in which that job was advertised. Also, $45/hr for DOORS and Synergy is VERY LOW unless you are a full time employee with benefits. My guess is that this gig would not have paid for benefits, 401k, etc.

    I just started a gig in California and believe me, there are much worse places to live.

  5. I completely agree, DOORS is not cheap. I recently posted for a position in Central Florida for a company that was looking for a Requirement Engineer that had knowledge of DOORS and its workings. Once I replied to the recruiter with my base salary, I never heard back from them. I also believe they re-posted the position as an entry level job. I had asked below the $45/hr you guys are talking about here. I have been working with DOORS for the past 8 years managing for both a systems and software group.

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