The benefits of thinking small

My eye was caught by the pull-quote on a piece in today’s Observer about why so many government IT projects end in digital disaster.

The key is to employ computing firms that think £100,000 is a lot of money and are used to delivering on time.

The writer pinpoints the problems that come when non-techy civil servants are responsible for the procurement of complex government IT projects.  Too often he argues, they opt for the safe choice and bring in the large, established firms who have managed – and failed to deliver – big projects in the past.

What you see is not necessarily what you’ll get

That’s not just a problem for IT contracts – nor is it only an issue in the civil service.  As the project lead on any complicated, big budget contract the safest thing to do, the way to protect yourself if things go wrong,  is hire a recognised name.  As the old saying goes – “no-one ever got fired for hiring IBM“.  But in my experience not only can big companies take a generic,  one size fits all approach to project delivery , they also have a tendency to wheel out the big guns at pitch time, dazzling clients with the lustre of their track record and the expensive cut of their suits, and hand the actual work to an altogether scruffier junior colleague.

The place to be – if you’re a client – is with a company which REALLY values your business, because you represent a significant chunk of their annual income. They won’t palm you off with the newly qualified trainee, they’ll make sure you get the personal attention of the MD.  They’ll know their reputation relies on how well they do, because your project is going to feature in their portfolio in future.  They’ll make sure they hit the deadlines and stick to the budget. And because they probably don’t have expensive overheads (or buy handmade suits), they won’t charge you an arm and a leg every day for the pleasure of their company.

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