Showing posts with label Big 8-6-5-4. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Big 8-6-5-4. Show all posts

Monday, November 25, 2013

An Open Letter To Headhunters About "Big-4 Opportunities"

TheHackerCIO received this via LinkedIn last week:

I think you are uniquely qualified for a Senior <techo-detail-deleted> Architect position I'm looking to fill for a Big 4 firm. Total compensation will exceed $<compensation-deleted>, depending on experience. Would you like to see the complete job description? I have worked with this Big 4 firm for 7 years and can set up a call for you with the hiring manager in less than 48 hours. If you have any interest, kindly email your resume to me (send directly to <>, as attachments will not come through via LinkedIn) at your earliest convenience. 
If you would rather refer someone (with similar qualifications), I can get you a substantial referral fee. 
Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you. 
This kind of query always leaves him conflicted.

So what better way to address the conflict, but to explore it in full detail in writing, and not only share the issues with my blog-followers, but also have a link to send to this and all future such requests? TheHackerCIO always seeks greater efficiencies! That's what makes him an executive, but that is a topic for another day.

First, the conflict: I'm an intelligent, highly ambitious, highly competent,  technology executive. The kind of compensation mentioned is definitely interesting; it sounds like they are seriously looking, since they will turn-it-around in 48 hours; and the recruiter has a direct, as well as long-term relationship with the hiring manager. But the problem is, this is a Big-4 firm.

The Big-4 firms are Accounting-Audit firms, who by consequence of their proximity were able to provide technology consulting services to their clients. The enterprenerial opportunism is laudable and admirable. But there is a big problem. At their core, the Big-4 are not technology businesses. Technological excellence is not their core competency. Accounting, auditing, management, process, methodology: all of these things are their core competency.

That is the theoretical explanation that I have found for why every assignment I have had around such organizations has been a profoundly unsatisfying experience. The empirical evidence I have seen of these Consulting Groups has been uniformly bad. Ok, worse than bad.

But I can't say that this is universal: I haven't examined them exhaustively. I haven't performed a systematic study. I haven't determined with full irrevocable certainty that nothing good can come from them. But the missing core competence is an explanation that seems to explain the empirical results I have experienced. Let's break down some representative examples of specific things I don't like.

1. I don't like their hiring model. Of course it's great to see sharp, top college students. But not when I need a DBA. Not when I need a good Pythonista. The Big-4 model is built around "making partner," and recruiting the smartest and most ambitious College Graduates to work like slaves in the vain and 5-9s futile pursuit (99.999% futile, that is, for you recruiters reading this) of achieving the Holy Grail of Big-4 Consulting: Partnership. And, frankly, I don't like pushing people out when they fail to make a virtually impossible grade. That isn't the kind of environment I want to foster or even give sanction to as being proper.

2. I don't like their training. Don't get me wrong. I love it that they actually provide training! I wish more companies invested in employee development and training. But their training isn't in core technology. It's in "Method-One," or CMM, or ITIL  -- something relating to their methodology, or Process. The RotheringPrinciple, to the contrary holds that:
"Process can't automate success" -- James Rothering
I'm interested in achieving success. If that gets accomplished in a totally unstructured manner, as with Dr. Edwin Land "insisting on the impossible" at Polaroid, without schedules, reporting structure, or deliverables, I'd prefer that. I'd prefer working with an innovative genius who was difficult and demanding, and yet successful, than with a careful bureaucratic process that replaces success with paper-work production.

3. They prefer package solutions; I prefer custom work. It's the difference between putting up prefabricated  homes and getting a Frank Lloyd Wright house, like Fallingwater. There's nothing wrong with either, but the latter is beautiful, and what I want to do with my life.

4. I don't like their common practice of fielding truly gifted, top-notch technologists when they are in the initial phases of securing the contract, followed by a speedy "reassignment" elsewhere once everything is contractually agreed. I certainly don't want to be the bait for poor clients, only to be switched off to another rinse-and-repeat-cycle once the poor client's John Hancock is on the dotted line. I want a continuity with my clients. I want an honest and thoroughgoing relationship with them, throughout the duration of the entire contract. I want repeat business. That's the way I want to do my work, with pride.

5. More than a majority of the Big-4 contracts I have seen ended up in litigation with the clients. I have to tell you that I have in my entire career never seen a boutique engaged in any litigation with their clients. I'm counting right now at least 5 instances of such lawsuit surrounding cancellations at Big-8-6-5-4 firms. I don't want to work in a place that seems to regard their Legal Department as a Profit Center. Sorry, but that's just wrong.

These firms, originally were 8, then 6, and now 4. When they were bigger, the most representative example was Arthur Anderson Consulting. I worked around them at least 4 times and never witnessed a successful implementation. I helped two clients prepare their defense documentation for the impending lawsuits. I wasted nearly 6 months doing this kind of forensics to assist one client. I consider them the prime illustration of the ilk, and would never consider anything at their current re-incarnation of Accenture. They are the very antithesis of everything I want to do in my professional life. Unless, of course they have completely changed, as the Leopard might lose his spots.

I'm an open-minded guy. Perhaps Accenture, or one of the Big-4 has completely renounced these points I mentioned above and embraced becoming the best technology-defined consulting house in the world to rival ThoughtWorks and other specialized boutiques. But I kind of doubt it. I kind of think that rumors would have spread out in the tech world. And I generally hear rumors ...

The wonderful thing about full honesty and transparency is that you can state your observations and evaluations based upon them, and if you somehow missed something, you can still be open to learning something new. That's part of being an active learner. But that is, also, a topic for another posting.

So, dearest recruiters, if you would dare to show this posting to your client and he still wanted to talk to me, then please send me another message, and I'll email you a resume. Anyone open-minded enough to read this and still desirous of pursing me, ought to reasonably be in synch with the kind of values I want to bring about in my work.

For my work is holy.

And Thank You For Your Consideration,

But For Me and My People,

I Remain,


Monday, November 11, 2013

Is Management Structure Even Necessary?

How about a different "model" for management? Perhaps the Polaroid corporation management model? To challenge the conventional WhizDumb & perhaps even your assumptions about setting up a standard management structure and lots of process, consider the success of Polaroid, in creating the 60-second instant camera. To quote from an article that frequently compares Edwin Land with Steve Jobs:
There was no managerial structure supervising the diverse groups involved. There were no written specifications that had to be accomplished. There was never any scheduled plan for when any task had to be completed. Yet one person, knowledgeable in every field involved, orchestrated this endeavor by challenging the available technology and the ingenuity of the many persons involved and expanding the boundaries of both. That person was Dr. Edwin H. Land.                                        [ref: here; viz. 1994 Optics & Photonics News]
Let's break this down point by point:

  • no managerial structure
  • no supervision structure
  • no required written specifications
  • no schedule
  • no plan
Can you imagine such a working environment? I doubt it. It requires a Land. It also represents the opposite project management approach to that of the Big 4, where "Methodology" and "Process" are co-Regents, and guarantee automatic success, except of course, when the project ends up in cost and time over-runs, cancellation, failure, and litigation. Somehow I've never seen those last 5 process "pathways" explored, or even described in the Method/1 documentation, although almost every project I've seen them work on has ended up traversing them. 

TheHackerCIO will leave the implications of this as an exercise for the reader. A sort of meditation exercise. But the point TheHackerCIO takes away from this is that all the apparatus of the Big-8-6-5-4/MBAhole establishment: process, managerial structure, specification, scheduling, planning, managers who know nothing about anything but management, and, of course, the Litigation Department as a Profit Center -- all of that is not a necessary condition for success. 

And it's interesting to ponder: is a lone innovator orchestrating an entire project, pushing others to achieve what they thought was impossible, is that the ideal model for innovation? Given the extraordinary achievements of both Land and Jobs under this model, is certainly enough to make one consider it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

An MBAhole

Valuing and dis-valuing are two sides of the same coin! To love spicy-hot foods means, inversely, that you don't care that much for bland fare. And so, the passionate values of TheHackerCIO lead quite naturally to an equally strong distaste for some things in the technology world.

One of those distasteful subjects are the many MBAs brought in by the typical Pathological Enterprise (those bloated Behemoths of paycheck-collectors) to direct and manage technology projects. The reductio ad absurdum of this practice is bringing in the The Big 8-6-5-4, a Government Created Financial Oligopoly nominally created to put Official Blessing on company documents. But they have taken it upon themselves to cash in on their unique position by pretending to understand technology as it applies to financial systems. TheHackerCIO can count at least a dozen times where he had to suffer alongside these consultants. His very first experience with them was the waste of a year of his life and career in tending and overseeing a doomed package implementation. Here was where the familiar pattern was first revealed: 
  • Deliverables that were technically in order, but didn't provide the needed functionality.  
  • Dispute with the client about the contract.
  • Project put on hold.
  • Legal takes over.
  • Project failure & cancellation.
I'm not sure if it is technically true, but rumor held that this particular consulting group used their Legal Department as a profit center. And such appeared to be the case, at least on this occasion. 

Why anyone would hire an accountant when they need a programmer is beyond me. Can you imagine a startup doing that? "Yes, Bill, I know you asked for 3 Ruby programmers, but I found these excellent recent graduates of a major, prestigious university who know all about Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology, and are backed up by an organizational expertise in accounts-payable, accounts-receivable, and inventory-control. Plus, they've all been through a 10 week "boot camp" on how to manage your projects." Yeah, that would fly.

One of their characteristic gambits is the initial use of top-level experts who really know their stuff. But these quickly dissolve into the woodwork and are replaced by ambitious 21-year-olds whose knowledge of technology is about as deep as a kiddie scripter, but who has been trained in a boot camp that methodology can replace expertise in producing results.

The combination of youth and arrogance is typical and particularly ugly. And so, that's why I call this particular phenomenon: The MBAhole.

TheHackerCIO no longer works on projects with MBAhole defined management.

But he will offer free advice to those who chose to do so.

Instead of putting accountants in charge of your technology project management, put your legal department in charge of it. That way, they'll be ready when the project gets closed down.

I Remain,