Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Cruel Joke

I am quite sure the supply chain and vendor management types had read the buzz about their would be strategic partner before making them one. Closer to the ground where the action is and the account manager places her four "on-site development bodies" for one fiscal year the picture is not nearly as rosy.

We get to deal with the said bodies ( a distinctly macabre term that I find hard to get used to even after so many years in the industry) every day and often wonder what we may done to deserve such punishment. Give them the simplest problem and they can turn it into a two hundred hour effort.
"That is besides integration and end to end testing" is the standard disclaimer that applies with all level of effort estimates. We analyst and project management types freak out and hit the roof in choreographed unison which is met with ill concealed contempt. To placate us the "lead" development body offers "We can reduce that by fifty hours if no documentation is required".

We ask about duration and are told it will be three weeks maybe four. We rush to remind him that there are four bodies offsite too working in tandem so there is twenty four hour coverage. The sun never sets on the development shop. Isn't that the Holy Grail of the outsourcing model of operations ? That makes it a six hundred and forty hour week. "Everyone is working at capacity" the lead tells us. "On what ?" we question in hysterical disbelief. He pulls out his well worn list. It is the same list of tasks that has been around as long as they have been and never seems to end. This bus will catch on fire he warns us should they stop working on the "urgent fixes". Though many of us privately think that would be for the best, we do not say so.

At first we would give them the benefit of doubt. Maybe they really know what they are doing. They are the techies. We would hold our peace and stay out their business. In time, the confidence proved dangerously misplaced. We got some serious attention from C-level execs on one notable snafu. That was our epiphany. Directors with C and Unix skills from the mid-80s rolled up their sleeves to see WTF was going on with the application.

The more we found out the more we wished we had not opened Pandora's Box. A couple of key themes emerged from this “deep dive” exercise. We had been given a set of eight bodies (for really cheap though thanks to unstinting efforts of the supply chain and vendor management types) who have the combined total IQ of hundred or less. But that is the good news. The really bad news is that they have absolutely nothing by way of common sense. That area is beyond darkness and void.

Their logic and reasoning is bizarre to the point of being surreal. Yet for reasons we don't fully understand (or even want to), the organization perseveres with this crew of eight who never understand what is required of them, continue to produce goo-gobs of completely indigestible code, compensate for their extraordinary ineptitude by working very, very long hours. We are told they are so cheap that we could add half a dozen bodies offshore to "beef up" the development team.

We ask why we can't use the same amount of money to get one seasoned local programmer onsite who can actually get the job done. The answers we get make little sense but we know about a turf war raging several levels higher. Some people want other people to fail spectacularly and so they are being given enough rope to hang themselves with. With the weight of these eight uncommonly obtuse development bodies death by hanging becomes inevitable and that is the exact rationale for keeping them on payroll. The rest of us are quite dispensible.

As for the buzz, we still wonder what that is all about. We check the dateline on the story to make sure it was not an All Fools Day joke. Someone surmises it must be an attempt at an emerging genre called Outsourcing-satire. We worry about our own sanity and wonder if depletion of common-sense could be contagious. It is generally acknowledged that our business analyst has been acting very strange lately.

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