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Comment: Business as usual.... (Score 2) 142

I have worked for a number of government agencies and large contractors. This story does not surprise me in the least. What WOULD surprise me is to find a story where one of these large scale IT projects actually got completed on time and on budget. Now there's a story.

Probably a rehash for some but here is, in my opinion, the reasons these projects continue to fail:

1) The procurement and bidding process is flawed, particularly at the federal level. Many firms are forbidden to place bids on projects because that lack this or that credential. As a result, it's the same old players time and time again. IBM. Deloitte. Oracle. Honeywell. Lockheed Martin. Both the Democrats and Republicans know that it's broken and both of them have had a chance to fix it but don't.
2) Governments insist on doing "fixed bid" (i.e. flat rate) projects. In my experience, fixed bid projects almost always turn out poorly, Particularly for large scale projects. What ends up happening is that the project (for whatever reason) falls behind. But the deliverable dates stay the same. Eventually the contractor has to either go back and ask for more money, do the work at a loss, or start cutting corners.
3) Government managers, by and large, don't understand the concept of a budget. Often there are no consequences for finishing late or going over budget. They will still have a job tomorrow.
4) This one happens every go into the project as 50/50 partners with a commitment from the client that they will devote X number of hours per week to the project and hold up their end. The problem is that the government managers have other stuff to do and can't devote X number of hours per week. If you're lucky you get X/2 hours per week. So critical decisions have to wait and delays occur.
5) For some government managers, big big projects are something they have no experience with. Last week they were trying to decide what color coffee maker to get for the break room. This week, they are installing SAP.
6) From the article..."It was supposed to replace 54 separate, antiquated computer systems used by state Social Security offices to process disability claims.". That is not a misprint. 54 antiquated systems. That is a huge undertaking. I would be willing to bet that at least a few of them have no documentation whatsoever. And the only person that knows how to run it retired a few years back. Good luck trying to unravel that mess.
7) The magic bullet theory. Time and time again I hear these management bozos (not just government ones either) spout off about how 'Software package X' is going to revolutionize how you do business..massive efficiency...streamlined processes. Bullshit. The software is only going to be as good as the decisions that are made along the way. And if you make mistakes on a few major decisions these really large software suites (SAP, etc.) can be nearly impossible to change once you start using them.
8) Team members that don't have a stake in the success of the project. Joe in accounting has been using the old antiquated system for the past 23 years. He's retiring in a few years. Do you really think that Joe wants to learn a brand new system? Not fucking likely. He won't get a raise or a bonus for all the extra work and he'll end up having to train his replacement. Meanwhile, his government manager has limited options for those that don't want to play.
9) Managers are unwilling, or unable, to change their convoluted business processes that are the root cause of these un-maintainable systems in the first place. Politics.
10) Lack of documentation. More than once I have been on projects where there is not a single page of documentation describing how the current systems works or what to do if something goes wrong. So you have to sit down and figure it all out yourself and that can take a lot of time.

Typical client exchange:

Me: "So tell me, why do you process Voucher payments in this fashion?"
Client: "Cause that's how Joe showed me to do it when he trained me."
Me: "And why did Joe do it that way?"
Client: "Beats me."
Me: "Is Joe around? Can we meet with him?"
Client: "Nope...Joe retired 2 years ago."
Me: 'Hmmmm...did he leave any notes or documentation?"
Client: "Are you kidding? He wasn't exactly a go-getter if you know what I mean."
Me: "Didn't his manager ask him to document things before he retired?"
Client: "Nope."
Me: "Looks like it's going to be a long night...."

Comment: Im a chicken.... (Score 1) 535

by erp_consultant (#47525657) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

plain and simple. Good eyesight is essential to my career. I'm a very visually oriented person. Not to minimize the loss of any other faculties but, for me, losing my eyesight would be the most difficult to deal with. Any surgery has risk. Some more than others but risk is always present. For me, it's just not worth the risk (however small) that I might end up with some sort of permanent damage to my eyes. Now, if I needed some sort of surgery to save my vision then that's another story entirely. But to do it for vanity and convenience? No thanks.

I've been wearing glasses since I was a child. Tried contacts and decided very quickly that I'd rather use glasses. I see really well with my glasses (both near and far) and I'm used to wearing them.

Would it improve my looks if I got Lasik? Yeah, maybe, but it's not a motivating factor for me. A few people have told me that I look good with my glasses. I kinda like them. So I'll keep using them.

Comment: Might as well... (Score 1) 474

The government has got their filthy hands on every other vice...booze, gambling, cigarettes. If you ask me, alcohol is a much bigger problem than all the other vices combined. And yet you can roll up to a 7-11 a buy a 6 pack any day of the week. As long as Uncle Sam gets his (significant) piece of the action.

Just take a look at what is happening with the pot dispensaries in California. Due to the huge amount of tax, the price (and quality, so I hear) is better on the street than what they are selling in the shops. Now granted, the stuff they sell in the shops is supposedly medicine and not for getting high but the point stands. You can get better, cheaper stuff on the streets than what the government is blessing. I have no doubt the same would hold true if cocaine were legalized. Well, at least it would keep people from going to jail for posessing it.

Comment: Re:Dilbert words: Can anything be as demoralizing? (Score 3, Insightful) 383

by erp_consultant (#47476129) Attached to: Microsoft CEO To Slash 18,000 Jobs, 12,500 From Nokia To Go

The latest buzzword is Human Capital Management. Note the use of the word Capital, as in asset. You, as an employee, are nothing more than a piece of furniture in their eyes. In the old days they called it the Personnel department. At least that had some sort of human element to it.

The morals of the story?

1) Don't trust management. They will cast you aside at the blink of an eye to save their own ass.
2) Don't get fooled into thinking you have lifetime employment with anyone.
3) Even when you have a job, never stop looking for the next one.

Comment: Internal Social networks are useless (Score 1) 131

by erp_consultant (#47378381) Attached to: Employees Staying Away From Internal Corporate Social Networks

It's just a vehicle for brown-nosers to suck up to their bosses. It's the online version of the office Christmas party. You can't express what you truly feel on these corporate websites for fear of offending someone. And trust me - you will offend someone. This is the world we now live in.

And God help you if you get on the wrong side of the HR drones. HR is is full of girls that couldn't get a date for the prom and guys that got stuffed into gym lockers. They live for this shit. It doesn't matter if you are the most productive employee on the team. If you get anywhere near that gender/ethnic/sexual preference/political affiliation line you will immediately be branded as a sexist/homophobic/xenophobic malcontent and tossed out on your ass with astonishing speed and compunction. Within the blink of an eye you will be left standing in the employee parking lot with a cardboard box containing your personal effects and your letter of dismissal pondering your next move.

Or, you could just avoid the company social network. Your choice.

Comment: Amazon loses this one... (Score 1) 272

by erp_consultant (#47372663) Attached to: Amazon Sues After Ex-Worker Takes Google Job

Non compete agreements are practically unenforceable in California. So we get the pleasure of watching a bunch of overpaid lawyers battle it out in already overcrowded courtrooms. The only justice will be if they both lose and are forced to donate the attorney fees to a homeless shelter.

Comment: Re:Careful what you wish for.... (Score 2) 265

Well said. I think that the environment that a person grows up in is a much bigger factor than race or gender. If your parents don't instill in you the value of a good education then many kids will miss out on that. Growing up poor already puts many of these kids at a disadvantage. Having parents that don't stress education just makes it worse. For the vast majority of these disadvantaged kids, education is the only way out. Sure, maybe you'll get a sports scholarship but that's a long shot.

I think that Affirmative Action legislation is well meaning but ineffective. It does not address the core issues, it merely masks it without offering any long term solution.

Comment: It's sad.... (Score 2) 51

by erp_consultant (#47326185) Attached to: Barnes & Noble To Spin Off Nook Media, Will Take It Public

Back when Amazon was just a book seller, B&N was competing with them toe to toe. But then Amazon just got too big and started using it's leverage to squeeze B&N.

Amazon doesn't get nearly enough flack for it's shady business practices. In some ways they are just as bad as Google and Facebook. Amazon is slowly but surely cornering the market for eBooks. Did you know that Amazon, at any time, can shut off access to eBooks that you have bought and paid for? Did you know that it's impossible to remove a transaction after you have bought something on their website? It's there forever. The new Fire phone is taking information gathering to a new level.

B&N, on the other hand, just strikes me as more of a mom and pop bookstore. Their eBooks use a more open format. I've never really heard anything about them abusing customer data or coming up with sneaky little tricks to gather it. They just seem to want to sell you books. You can go into one of their stores and browse for hours and nobody will say anything. No pressure to buy anything.

Comment: Careful what you wish for.... (Score 3, Interesting) 265

You know, the deeper we look into these kinds of issues the more interesting it gets.

The real question here is not "why are there so few minorities at Company X" it's "why are there so few qualified candidates from minority group X to fill open positions?". We already have diversity legislation in place at Universities in America. In fact, there are more women graduates than men. Yet so few of the females grads are getting degrees in CS. Why is that? It is certainly not because of lack of opportunity. Could it be that maybe - just maybe - women don't want to be programmers?

How about African Americans and other minority groups? Well, clearly the number of University students as a percentage of the total population is much lower than society in general. The question is why? Partly economic to be sure. But loans and grants are available to nearly everyone. Yet the number of black and latino college entrants is far lower, on a percentage basis, than they are for whites. Why is that?

Is it possible that, in general, black and latino kids just don't put as high a value on a college education as white kids do? And, therefore, just don't work as hard to get the good grades necessary to get into a good college? What part does having children out of wedlock play in this? Black and latino women have a much higher instance of this than either white or Asian women.

I'm not trying to point fingers or cast blame here and I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers. But it does raise some interesting questions.

Comment: Re:Typical Government reasoning.... (Score 1) 619

by erp_consultant (#47283113) Attached to: 2 US Senators Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

Yes, I agree that the rate is probably too low but without addressing the raiding the problem remains unsolved. It's truly a chicken and egg thing. It just seems that when you give the government the money first with a promise to fix the problem later, the problem never gets solved. We have seen this time and time again.

Comment: Re:Typical Government reasoning.... (Score 1) 619

by erp_consultant (#47277231) Attached to: 2 US Senators Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

"Even assuming no new waste in the system" - Well, there is a leap of faith if ever there was one.

"I'm sure there's plenty of waste in the system" - Ok, that's better

The point I was trying to make is that this sort of misappropriation of funding is the root cause. First, we need to fix that and then we can look at whether or not it is underfunded. Transit and bike paths are State responsibilities not Federal. So there is no reason that a single penny of the HTF should go towards it.

The Feds should be telling States "Here is some money but you can only spend it on highways - no bike paths or any of that other stuff. If we find out otherwise you're cut off.". Problem solved.

Comment: Typical Government reasoning.... (Score 2, Informative) 619

by erp_consultant (#47276507) Attached to: 2 US Senators Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

Instead of taking a hard look at where the money in the Highway Trust Fund is going, their solution is to simply bring in more money. The HTF was originally set up to fund the building of the Interstate Highway system. Period. That was it's sole purpose. Those funds were transferred to various States to build and expand the IH system as needed.

Fast forward to today and the HTF resources are being funneled into Transit systems, ferry boats, bike paths, and nature trails. All worthy causes but the money should not come out of the HTF. That's why it is underfunded.

This is the same trick that politicians play time and again. It happens with Education, Social Security and other items.

Comment: PC Police are in full force once again (Score 1) 646

by erp_consultant (#47266857) Attached to: Washington Redskins Stripped of Trademarks

This whole thing is insulting on so many levels I'm not even sure where to begin.

Let's start with the name - Redskins. If you are offended by the name then don't go to any of the games or buy any of the merchandise. Problem solved. No need for lawsuits or public flogging.

Secondly, does anyone really believe that this is the most pressing issue facing the native american community? Is it even in the top 100? I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of native americans couldn't give a shit either way what the football team is called.

After all that the native americans have gone through - having their land stolen from them, herded on to reservations like cattle, etc. - this is how we make good on all that? By changing the name of a fucking football team? Give me a break.

Comment: Flawed assertion (Score 1) 435

by erp_consultant (#47263191) Attached to: Yahoo's Diversity Record Is Almost As Bad As Google's

This whole "diversity" debate is nonsense. If there were an equal number of females, minorities and white males applying for the same job and white males were overwhelming getting chosen then you might have a case. But those numbers are never released. We never see how many applicants there are - only the race/gender of current employees.

If there are 10 times as many white males as females applying for a given job it only stands to reason that there will be more white males hired, no?

Why is there no outrage over the fact that females dominate the primary school teaching profession? Or the fact that 75% of NBA players are black? Why is it that there is only outrage when it is white males that dominate a given profession?

This is what the world has come to. Hiring managers are now being pressured into hiring less qualified (unqualified?) candidates in order to meet some arbitrary "diversity" number just so that some smug liberal do-gooder will feel better about themselves. Meanwhile, the better qualified white male gets left on the sidelines.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming