Sunday, December 11, 2011

Best description I've ever seen on why many big corporations have difficulty improving operations

Yup.  This is exactly what it's like, folks.  Don't work for one if you don't want the pain.

Let me tell you why you don't see this happening more often. 
I did this on a project a few years back. I replaced a paper workflow process that was taking up two people each in three departments with a web-based workflow that increased visibility, dropped turn-around time from days to minutes, increased accountability and accuracy and trimmed those 16 person hours of processing down to 1-2 per department. 
Everyone who directly interacted with the new system loved it. Numerous edge cases that would have been lost in high-level review were caught and integrated from day 1 due to my actually watching people do the job for a day or two per department. The solution has been rock solid (minor maintenance only) for five years. 
And I almost lost the job.
The people who sign the checks were furious. The balance of political power between departments were thrown for a loop. One head in particular treated the thing as a near-existential threat. His entire concept of his job revolved around being the authoritative interface for retrieving and maintaining pieces of data that were no longer exclusively under his control. Another flipped out because middle management saw the results as cause to reduce his headcount and budget, and thus importance. 
These two departments fought for months, refusing to contribute their shares of budget that were pledged toward modernizing this system. 
On a technical and practical level, it was the single best experience I've ever had as a consultant. On a personal and economic level, is was one of the worst. It was some of the hardest money I've ever tried to collect. It was some of the most time and energy I've put into the political and 'sales' side of a job (the part I treat as a necessary evil, but very much evil). The corporation has made out like a bandit in the long run. But I paid the price. 
It's simply too easy and financially rewarding to allow a client's political nonsense to screw up every stage of a project. I have less stress, the people who pay me are happier and I bill far more hours. 
As with most software, internally developed software included, you don't see better projects more often because the incentives are horribly perverted and stacked against it.

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