Fantasy consulting

There are a few of us here who have 10+ years in developing and delivering MS Office based systems for clients. Thats many many successful projects delivered, working, live. In the course of that ‘delivering working systems to fee paying clients’ we will come across a wide range of complementary technologies, and experience a whole range or organisational and social factors, and learn the relative importance of them.

Youngfers always pooh pooh experience, I know I did when I was a yoof. And a super structured, intensive, comprehensive training course could well replace a lot of experience. But there aren’t any such courses, in any discipline, that could fill in the blanks that many years of varied, relevant experience provide.

During this time we obviously get in-depth exposure to all manner of existing systems, as the basis for stuff we are to build. That means we are very experienced at comprehending other peoples stuff. That makes us a good bet for any maintenance type work.

Of course there is the hit by a bus scenario, but other than that using a old industry pro, who has many years in and is likely to stick around in this tech field seems to make sense. And if one falls by the wayside there are others around.

Why then do so many companies insist on using poorly supervised inexperienced juniors from a big name accounting or consulting firm? (a quality fantasy)

Here is a bit of (very rough) maths:

Big Co

Day Charge out rate 3000
Junior full cost 300
Gross margin 2700
black hole 2700

And the other side

Day Charge out rate 1000
Experienced dev cost 1000
black hole 0

If I were paying for a difficult to measure service I’d be keen for most of the value to flow to the person performing it rather than down a black hole.

Of course there is the su-ability (sp?) and the size of professional indemnity insurance policy.

I’d love to know what drives potential customers to big firms even though the value proposition offered by smaller specialists seems that much better to me. Is it just a case of ‘no one ever got fired for buying IBM’?

Any thoughts?




16 Responses to “Fantasy consulting”

  1. Biggus Dickus Says:

    “”I’d love to know what drives potential customers to big firms even though the value proposition offered by smaller specialists seems that much better to me. Is it just a case of ‘no one ever got fired for buying IBM’?””

    Two reasons:

    1. If you are a manager, the more money your’e responsible for spending the higher your personal compensation
    2. (As I said earlier) The people soliciting these big firms hope to use these same firms as either their safety net if they lose their job or it is going to be their next career move.



  2. Chris Says:

    Not that I’m a great fan of the “big firm consulting” approach, but one comeback you have with big firms is that when they bugger up the project you can start really turning the thumbscrews on them by holding back paying the enormous bills (for all the other people you are hiring from them, not just the one guy who messed up) and then taking them to court knowing that they might actually be able to pay. If you hire a spreadsheet guy for your million pound project and he buggers it up, you’re stuffed.


  3. Chris Says:

    “If you hire a spreadsheet guy for your million pound project and he buggers it up, you’re stuffed.”

    I would hope we wouldn’t be doing the million pound gigs as a rule. The problem I see is that the big guys are like a black hole and suck up all the money, access and light for these corporations and small vendors simply can’t get any light (that includes small, local multi-person conultancies as well).


  4. Simon Says:

    Eh? whats gannin on?
    Chris? Dick? Who wrote that last comment?

    Chris yeah I know about the covering your arse approach. But it seems dysfunctional to me. Why pick the supplier with the deepest pockets for when things go tits-up? wouldn’t it be better to pick the best suited supplier and work with them to ensure success?

    I’ve had potential customers try this divisive approach with me and my PI insurance before. They never make it to customer.

    I like the light analogy – we’re like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

  5. Chris (actually Dick) Says:

    Dick wrote it – I notice it says I am Chris on my page here (but I have edited it)….. something’s not right (??)

    I’ll close and come in again after sending this.


  6. Dick Says:

    Now I am just a Dick ……… I will send and then close and re-open yet again.

  7. Dick Says:

    Now it says I’m still a Dick. Wierd ….. but not life-threatening I guess.

    Good night

  8. Simon Says:

    You’re both coming through from the same IP
    You wanna check your sys admins have applied that dns patch properly!

  9. Ross Says:

    I didn’t think you could have the same IP?

    I actually think there are some reason to go with a big boy. For example if your purcahsing deparment cant be asked to mess about with off account suppliers, if you dont know any indies, and cant be asked to look for one. If you dont know any better. If you have someone from Mega Corps X already cocking up some other part of your company, and they cross sell.
    I think for the indies networking and getting in front of the right poeple is key – but how do you do that – no real sales or marketing department, it’s hard. On the other hand, nobody owes you a dinner, right!

    Ross, love actually.

  10. Simon Says:

    Ross, same proxy server I reckon.

    I dislike that purchasing department argument (but I have come up against it a few times)- thats the tail wagging the dog. Purchasing should facilitate the business using the supplier that the business thinks is best suited, not just to keep the number of suppliers down. If its so expensive to set up suppliers purchasing has FAILED. completely. I’ve got an idea I’ll work through an approved agency they can add 20% on top job done. Now which is more expensive?

    All the other arguments are fair enough, it is hard, there are no free dinners, I do wonder if the one man band game is sustainable, I suspect not.

  11. Bob Phillips Says:

    I think two things come into play, one (superficially) reasonable, and one totally unreasinable but part of the corporate games-playing.

    The first is that us old, experienced, wizened old-pros have got tons of that real-world exposure, been there, etc., but there is the danger that we get to believe our own bullshit. To a manager, especially a new guy who has been brought in to deliver, he doesn’t need someone who questions everything, who keeps telling him that is not the way we did it before, etc. etc. The young, eager guy who only say ‘yes boss’ seems a far more attractive option. I know, I have been in that position, and you see plenty of these sorts. This is the superficially reasonable argument, and it is superficial because what these managers fail to realise is that is not just a matter of old lags, old ideas, and old hands clinging on, but it is a matter of managing – using people for what they are good at, making them realise that their skills are valued, and building a team. How many managers do you know that are actually good at managing? Of course if the old lags are really awkward, you have to deal with that too.

    And of course, there is the budget. Young keen guys are cheaper. This is the totally unreasonable argument, because it only looks at the short term costs (as Simon alluded). The difficuly here is that is what bean counters are good at, and if they can cust a cost of £1, even though it costs £5 elsewhere in the company, they go for it. My brother works for HP (I think it is HP, he started with Dell, who got taken over by Tandem, who got taken over by Compaq, who got taken over by HP … I can’t keep up), and he runs a department. Graham (my brother) has a colleague who runs another department, and they both report to the same guy. Graham’s colleague had this task that was done on a regular basis, and the chap that did it had to liaise with my brother for some reason. Anyway, Graham’s colleague convinced their boss that this other chap should be part of Graham’s department, and got him transferred over. Of course the company saved nothing, the guy was still doing the task, was still getting paid, in fact it cost more as it became more inefficient as he was now not part of the department for which the job was really done, and so he had to work harder to get their time, and so on. So net effect, an increase in costs, but of course Graham’s colleague was able to pint to reducing costs and headcount, an d argued his bonus up with this. Corporate madness.

  12. Biggus Dickus Says:

    Speaking of “Old Guys” – yesterday I was working at the local MS Office and got chatting with one of the young sales/marketting guys.

    Once I explained what I do he said “Do you do this just because you like it – you don’t have to – do you?” ????

    I am 54 and I dress nice (but not that nice) :-( ….. I MAY look a little older but wait a minute here !!!

    I told him I have to work another 10 years because I’m not rich (yet).. I think he regretted his question.

    Scary stuff … Maybe it’s time to lose a few pounds and get some hair colour happening


  13. Ross Says:

    Hang on in there Dick!!!

  14. Biggus Dickus Says:

    Thanx Ross

  15. Patrick O'Beirne Says:

    “Day Charge out rate 1000 ”
    Quick poll .. how many get GBP 1000 or more per day?
    Or was that USD 1000?

  16. jonpeltier Says:

    Patrick – I think 1000 USD is more like it.

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