Monday, 1 December 2008

Julian's Box of Puppies

I was catching up on some wreading (web-reading - geddit?) the other day and stumbled across Julian Browne's blogsite. Julian was the Head of Architecture at Virgin Mobile that commissioned my company to build a space-based reliable transaction layer into the web platform they were putting together at the time. I did a write-up which can be found on the PSJ site in the 'whitepapers' section. There's also a more Giga-centric write-up here.

Anyway, towards the end of Julian's time at VM he was experiencing the joys of being consulted at by one of the big four consultancies. Julian's blog has a very droll take on the experience of being involved in externally-driven "change programmes" - that's 'change' as in you won't have any left after they've picked your pocket.

Julian's blog uses a child-friendly Scoobie-Doo analogy to make his point. Having been a spectator at a few of these events I'd characterize it more as gang rape. My heart has sunk on more than one occasion when I've been working for a client with a few teething problems but generally stumbling along in the right direction (and that's all we can really hope for, kids) goes down the death by consultancy track.

Reading Julian's posting made me recall one project I worked on for a now defunct investment bank and was a classic case in point. The company I worked for at the time was working with them to implement a system that the previous time around with another bank had taken 7 of our people and 5 of theirs and done in a respectable timeframe. Within minutes of engaging said consulting firm the sky became black with parachuting consultant types. Hmmm, the metaphors are getting mixed as the anger builds;-) They even tried to get away with parachuting in an architect team to tell my own people how to use my company's own product!

Result: a project that with a bit of proper defect analysis would have probably come in on budget a couple of months late ended up (you probably guessed this bit) cancelled six months later having overspent the budget by 100%. Our consulting friends had 50 billing heads at the peak and by my reckoning walked away with around 70% of the project spend, having contributed, at best zip, and at worst (IMHO) being the prime cause of project failure.

Moral: go and work for a big consulting firm, clearly ;-)

Anyway, take a look at Julian's article which says it all much better than I can...