I was reading this article about UK government in-sourcing all the work they previously outsourced.
This could be a story about any one of a number of failed outsourcing or cloud migration projects I’ve read about over the years. They all follow the same pattern.
- The company is having an internal problem, that they don’t know how to solve. It could be related to costs, productivity, a paradigm shift in business practices or just an existing internal project that is failing.
- They decide launch down a path of outsourcing or cloud migration with unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve and no real ideas about what benefits they will get, other than what Gartner told them.
- When it doesn’t go to plan, they blame the outsourcing company, the cloud provider, the business analysts, Gartner, terrorists etc. Notably, the only thing that doesn’t get linked to the failure is themselves.
You might have heard this saying,
“You can’t outsource a problem!”
Just hoping to push your problems on to someone else is a guaranteed fail. If you can’t clearly articulate what you want and understand the consequences of your choices, how will you ever get a result you are happy with?
Over the years we’ve seen a number of high profile consultancies get kicked off government projects. The replacement consultancy comes in, hires all the same staff that failed last time, then continue on the failure train. I’m not going to mention names, but if you have paid any attention to UK government IT projects over the last decade you will know who and what I mean.
Every time you hear someone complaining about failing projects or problems with a specific model (cloud, on-premise, outsourcing, in-sourcing), it’s worth taking a step back and asking yourself where the problem really is. It’s much easier to blame other people than admit you’re part of the problem! These sayings spring to mind.
“Garbage in, garbage out!”
“A bad workman blames his tools!”
PS. I’ve never done anything wrong. It’s the rest of the world that is to blame… 🙂
Update: I wasn’t suggesting this is only an issue in public sector projects. It just so happens this rant was sparked by a story about public sector stuff. 🙂
7 thoughts on “[Cloud | On-Premise | Outsourcing | In-Sourcing] and why you will fail!”
Currently our management solution of the moment is DevOps, only problem is no one knows what that is except me who got evangelised to by the one Developer who understood it and is now off making more money after not getting a renewal when people started to realise what would actually be involved.
Key thing is DevOps is hard and everyone needs to buy into it, one admin or DBA manually copying scripts or configuration changes becomes a problem as suddenly the test environments and production are diverging and the whole thing starts to look like it did before just with less testing.
On the plus side I have my own openstack cloud to play with, and know we can rebuild a failed node in a cluster in half an hour or we could if the networking, OS install and configuration took less than three days still my bit is push button have new server which is all good.
Chris: Aaahhh. DevOps. That term that mutates to mean whatever the person saying it wants it to mean, like Agile, Grid and Cloud.
Just kidding. Lot’s of very positive stuff coming out of DevOps. Some of us old folks would say it’s what we’ve been working to for years, but we always try and take the credit for new stuff. 🙂
I 75% agree (and it’s painful to agree with you even that much 🙂 ) – I’ve also witnessed this outsourcing of failure and the consequent baffling “amazement” when the outsourced (and re-outsourced (and re-re-outsourced)) project also fails – and yet the company/organisation does not want to accept that maybe the problem is very, very close to hand, ie themselves. After all, they understand what their system needs to do best and yet they failed to implement it themselves.
I’ve seen this in projects I’ve worked on as well as from the sidelines when it hits the press. It is not just the preserve of public sector IT though, I’ve seen it done by commercial companies, but they are much better at keeping the failure under wraps. We hear about the public sector ones much more as (a) they have to be more open and (b) the media just love finding them.
But I think that the companies that take on the outsourcing should also take a share of the blame, especially those who serially take on such projects and screw them up. I’ve been saddened by the incompetence of them on some of those projects and angered by the willful fake income generation I’ve seen on others.
I think another project paradigm also suffers from this effect too. The decision to go “Agile”. Companies seem to think going Agile is going to magically fix a failing project in much the same way as outsourcing. Put some labels on it, hire some consultants, call every fortnight a sprint and make everyone stand up for 10 minutes each morning is not going to address more fundamental issues. It is also not actually implementing Agile, but there you go.
Sorry for the really long comment!
Martin: Regarding the long comment. I feel the need to say, “I like a long one”, followed by a Kenneth Williams style “Oh Matron!”. 🙂
I agree with all your comments. I wasn’t trying to suggest it was a public sector thing. It happens everywhere. This was sparked by a public sector story though.
Tim, excellent post. The phrase you can’t outsource a problem is so very, very true. I’ve worked on both side of this issue. I don’t know which is worse – the client who believes the cloud is the answer to all problems or the cloud provider who’s trying to figure out what the client actually wants, all while desperately trying to make money on increasingly thin margins. The cloud is just someone else’s servers. Outsourcing is like a parent believing they can hire someone to take care of their children better than they would. We shouldn’t be surprised at the failures.
Here was I thinking the marketing buzz of ‘outsourcing’ had been long since replaced by equally overhyped new buzz things like (indeed) Cloud and DevOps.
Indeed these are in itself good basic initiatives and thoughts, but just way overhyped. It needs firm self-thinking to actually be able to be useful and a fit to the actual problem.
I have the feeling I just heard a description of IT in the last 25 years…
For as long as IT damagement continues to follow every word out of the Gartner&Co mobs, this will continue to happen.
Name two people in Gartner (and the other similar mobs) with ACTUAL AND DEMONSTRABLE first-hand experience of ANY IT production environment, be it in public or private, with a PROVEN track record of DELIVERED and CLOSED projects.
As far as I know, it’s the best definition of NULL I’ve found over the last quarter of a century…
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