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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An example of unrealistic expectations in the service industry

This is a true example from around 6 years back when I was working for an IT software solutions provider (the firm did software projects for different customers). This was a decent sized company that had something like 12000 people on the rolls, doing everything from development to testing to requirements analysis, and so on. I was more into the area of a business analyst, translating the requirements document into a form that the developers working on the project would understand.
This was a new project with a new medium sized bank in the Midwest, and the hope was that we would be able to do this project well enough and give them a system that would work so well for them that they would continue with the company and be the start of a long and serious (and profitable) relationship. Sounds good, right ? Well, read on.
Around this time, our company, that was a publicly listed company was getting on just like the other service companies of that time, doing okay, but not generating great figures. Management was getting hit by analysts, and passed on a directive that every project needs to meet the company defined margin. Exceptions only when pleaded before the executive committee, and not otherwise. Implicit was the expectation that anybody who does a project that does not promise enough margin would need to explain the project.
Now, since our project was with a new customer with whom we had high hopes for the future, we could not charge our expected rates; after all, why would the customer then select us ? So, our account manager along with the Vice-President of the unit went ahead and quoted a rate that was atleast 20% lower (getting fewer people assigned to the project than necessary). Guess what ? Pretty soon, the strains and missing people started to show.
Ego also plays a part. For a Vice-President to go before the committee and plead for more money (a reduction in margin) would reflect adversely. The members of the committee, who might be expected to provide an experience of being able to handle these kind of situations and offer some latitude did not do so since they were never offered this project for review. Pretty soon, somebody senior in the team had the bright idea that weekends could be converted into work hours (maybe 1 weekend in 3 could be off), and this idea was implemented with gusto.
You can guess the rest. People from outside the project did not want to join, quality reviews of the project were hesitant because of the many exceptions, and eventually the customer could make out that the quality was not as desired. Project over, account over, and pretty soon the project manager and other senior team members quit and went to other companies.
This was a disaster caused by the management reacting adversely to poor numbers, and unwilling to exercise the due diligence in doing a project (after all, the first criteria for a project should be to make it successful).

How many of you have similar experiences ?

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