ha ha ha ha ha
That's what happens when you buy your system based on total number of golf games and bottles of champaign provided to directors.
British Gas is suing Accenture for £182m in costs connected to the failure of a new billing system put in place by the consultants in 2006. Problems with the system led to a massive increase in complaints against the gas supplier. Centrica, British Gas's parent company, has already written off £200m due to problems with the …
Muppets at British Gas versus commercial sharks at Accenture
My money is on Accenture winning, they have many falures and it's so rare that anyone is able to successfully sue them. Contract negotiations are their specialism (rather than IT delivery). The main reason they manage to sell into accounts is the old-boys network of ex-Accenture would-be partners.
I worked in the consultancy business and the reputation of Accenture is that they knowingly design and build systems ( but still to clients requirements) which they know will not work.
Then when the client's management realise the system will not work, a package of change requests has to be put together which Accenture then charge for. Deliberate strategy from what I have heard.
Not being one to bash fellow hard-working consultants a few more customers should follow suit and sue a few more consultancies for their p*poor implementations hitting corporations and government agencies alike. When your 100M+ shiny new software doesn't do what you ask for and your finance teams are left building mammoth Excel spreadsheets and your customer teams are passing round more post-its than bytes on the LAN please do us all a favour and hit the SUE button. Too many know-nothing 1000-pound-a-day+ consultants and not enough software engineers make for a stinking waste of money if you ask me.
> It said: "British Gas sought to establish what went wrong and why
Just ask anybody (me included) who worked on the project, saw the architecture diagrams, project plans or spent any time at Accenture's project office in Chertsey. We all knew it was doomed back in 2002, before it had even started to roll out.
Normally if you're betting the company - or it's reputation on a new IT project, you limit yourself to things you know how to do. Maybe include one new aspect - or possibly two if they're non-critical. You don't completely redesign the whole shebang with all new, totally unfamilar technology that none of your people know how to support.
As an example, if you've never, ever implemented or run a Siebel system you don't jump in with what was at the time, the world's largest single Siebal instance.Part of the blame, of course, goes with the Centrica higher management and directors who let the Accidenture dreamers, sorry - designers, float off into airy-fairy land with their ludicrous designs, impossibly complex applications and utterly unsupportable implementations.
I'm no lover of Centrica (I was contracting, afterall) but I really hope they win big on this one.
i can't breathe.. laughing too hard!... i left british gas as a result of their incompetencies and the fun i had getting them to even just progress a complaint..
2500 people emplyed to remedy the situation counts for nothing if they're muppets.. accenture could have it thrown out as a claim for costs just by citing the quality of remedial solution deployed by BG.. they must have asked for some truly stupid processes for the software. i'd guess they designed their bed to fit someone of a certain specification and when asked to lie in it wer'nt happy that toes stuck out the end after the measuring tape was found to be made of elastic..
that said, accenture do have a penchant for gouging their corporate clientbase once the loss-leader sold to the outgoing corporate execs has come home to roost.. the darned small-print they expect their customers to actually read.. what a bind to actually have to quote it back to them when they get what they asked for..
all of that allegedly of course..
but, aaahh. i second the wasp vs nettle sentiment..
Believe me, I've no love at all for Accenture but BG/Centrica have had all the consultants in before and then some. None of them get it right because BG iteself doesn't know what it wants and what will work and it will be very aggressive going about not getting what it doesn't know it wants.
I worked on a large BG project many years ago. The project was in crisis. We kept telling BG that features they wanted would not work and could not be achieved in the timescales of the project. They just threatend to cancel the project. We carried on working, taking their money, still telling them it wouldn't work. They cancelled the project nearly a year later.
BG and Accenture? made for each other
I am one of those poor unfortunates that suffered at the hands of British Gas billing, and I can say with certainty that, although software may have been the root cause, the problems were multiplied by the bunch of incompetent dolts who work there. I had 9 months of trying to get them to setup a direct debit for my gas and electricity before I gave up and went to another supplier.
Every single month I got a letter(s) telling me there was a problem with my direct debit, and every month I rang up to find out what the problem was. Every single month I was told the problem had been sorted, but either nothing had been done, or what was done compounded the problem. At one point I had four accounts, each trying (and failing) to direct debit me for by gas and electricity. Problems included loosing paperwork (sent in the same envelope with other paperwork they did get) and promising faithfully to do an action that was never done.
Even switching suppliers turned out to be a nightmare, with British Gas refusing to allow be to switch 'cos they said I owed money, but every time I contacted them they said I didn't owe anything (turned out that two of the four accounts had been 'closed' but with money owing, and because they had been closed no bills were sent and no human on the end of the phone could find them as they were 'hidden'. Aggghhhhhh).
Of course all of this was only compounded with their half hour wait on the phone listening to their 'we are experiencing unusually high volumes' message. When have listened to that lie 50 times, you start every conversation with the impression they are going to lie to you again.
Check this story out
Brings back painful memories of when I was working at Sainsburys as an accenture contractor in 2001 when they changed the head office computer systems over from Windows95 to Windows 2000. It didn't go well to say the least!
I think I'm still suffering from PTSD over this even after seven years!... The (understandable) abuse the IT department received from the users over a number of weeks was incredible....
BG wouldn't be the first IT client to dictate a solution (as well as but probably instead of requirements) to their expensive IT consultants, be warned repeatedly their solution might not be optimal, then blame them when it all went wrong. Whatever one thinks of Accenture, or consultants in general, you would think that those paying through the nose for them would pay attention.
In the mean time, they're still a company, so of course they're going to take money to build what the client asked for. Who can blame them? The real shame is that the bosses usually evade being found out.
Some time ago the company I work for did a big bid for some work for BG. Ourselves and a couple of other firms were invited to trial our stuff at our expense. A huge potential contract, so our managment fell over themselves to do it.
We poured time and resource into the project (it took up about 6 months of my time alone), and I'm sure our 2 competitors did as well. We supplied expertise and custom-built software to them.
At the end of the trial they said "thanks, but we're going to build it ourselves." In other words they got 6 months of free consulting out of us. So I hope that Accenture win.
'Anderson Consulting' changed their name to Accenture at nearly the same time as the Enron Scandal ( not to mention a littany of high profile project failures which 'surprisly' coincided with it). Despite what you may read on various web pages this is no coincidence, and the timing was all too clear to anyone who knows anything about the old Anderson Consulting.
Who can truly be surprised that this company behaves any differently than before. Overcharging clients for incompetent 'consultants' (most of whom are recent University grads with little to no real world experience) is standard practice.
Sell a AMC PAcer to a customer who really wanted a BMW, but then tell them they're getting a Lambourghini and charge them for it.
one bunch of pirates against another ;-)
It must be said that I have never heard a good thing said about Accenture, although in an attempt to be fair this could be said about many consulting companies.
Problem is that corporate management types seem convinced that off loading the projects to a bunch of consultants is the best approach, and don't seem aware of the reputation of these consultancies - at any level.
My current boss (hence the anonymous ;-) ) is an ex-accenture type and is totally clueless and screwing up big time. He gets away with it as he likes excel and powerpoint and seems to know how to talk to his bosses - who want nothing to do with IT, don't understand it, don't want to understand it, and don't know why they are cursed with having to supervise it - so they don't, and are only too happy to take what the smiling fool tells them at face value. It means we don't deliver on time, what we do deliver is not useful, and we spend 2 to 3 times the money getting there than we should do. In as much as a working system could be delivered on time for a third of the cost.
Odd thing is that nobody seems to care, and there are I guess a lot of places where this is the case.
OK, I'm not on that side of the pond, but after this description (and the comments), we need to know what is doing a poorer job? From the looks of it, it can't go much lower.
Over here in sunny California (it was nice yesterday!) we have this utility we call PG&E (actually Pacific Gas and Electric, aka Pacific Graft and Extortion) which in the "customer service" area doesn't do too bad. They just charge lots of $$$ for the stuff they re-sell (natural gas and kilowatt hours). I'd complain, but the company really has little to do with the prices (*SIGH*). Oh, well.
I'm with Mike Richards, thanks for giving me a good laugh and exposing my keyboard to croque monsieur :) Neither organisation have lots of people singing their praises and I get the feeling that neither side is completely innocent here.
Any company which has or had the word "British" in its (former) title is a byword for ineptitude. Surely it did its research before deciding to get Accenture involved? Reputation speaks more to me than advertising.
Back when I was a consultant, these guys had a horrible reputation. So bad, in fact, they changed their name 10 or 15 years ago (I've forgotten their previous name).
So with a horrible track record, and public statements like "Accenture will vigorously defend the High Court proceedings" - who would want to hire these clowns? You know the delivered system will suck, and you know you'll end up in court when you can prove it sucks.
There can be only once answer that anyone hires them - follow the money in the 'hiring' organization - there's gotta be graft here somewhere!
@Rob Briggs: "None of them get it right because BG iteself doesn't know what it wants"
Have you ever come across a company, who knows what they want? Except for what they have - but better.
Building software with a clean and cohesive vision and specification is piece of cake. Generating that understanding of what the client actually need and make them want it -- that is nearly art.
A manager back then, Adam Neat, now a director with Fujitsu Australia, must have been feeling a bit seedy one Monday morning.
Near the end of a on-one-one meeting with him he received a phone call from a friend (I guess).
He got involved in the phone conversation and completely forgot I was there. Proceeded to boast to his friend about how many "lines" he'd been doing on the weekend.
(You should have seen the look on his face when he finished the conversation, turned around, and realised I was there.)
Pity, Fujitsu is a good company. They deserve better.
I finally made an escape from Accenture last year. In case you are ever tempted to work for them....just don't. Why? Try these for starters:
I worked on a large outsource deal. Unforunately Accenture had gone in with such a ludicrously low deal that staff were always short and regularly cut to keep the costs down further.
The useless management team would agree to (literally) any demand from the client, regardless of complexity or ability to deliver to the required timescale. They would then expect staff to practically put their lives on hold to try and achieve these goals for months at a time. I worked 101 hours one especially nasty week.
Accenture would often overrule any designs that included products that weren't from companies in cahoots with Accenture, resulting in ill-fitting products that weren't in the best interest of the customer.
This also extended to hardware, with selection skewed so that the company with the best rebate for Accenture would be chosen, again not necessarily in line with the design brief or the customer requirement.
The more junior consultants I encountered were regularly shipped all over the place away from home, and flogged with life-shortening workloads.
I could go on, but you get the idea. My 6 years under Accenture were an education in how to extract money from a client whilst using staff as a consumble resource. You have been warned...
..are indeed tarred with the same brush. Capita, EDS, Logica, Cap Gemini - their only remit is to try and get other consultants into the company on your (or another) project. I have sat in meetings where on Monday there was a single CG bod, by Friday there were 4! Quite honestly, I was impressed! Do these guys get a commission for each person they bring in?
There are some good individuals at these places, but when they come together its chaos. Basically, as a team, they're crap. They tend to bring in simply anyone from anywhere and throw them together. This doesnt make good team dynamics.
As already mentioned....the legal side.....These companies do indeed have amazing legal departments who know exactly how to word things so the customer is always wrong. It is unlikely BG will win this.
If any company out there is thinking of a sizeable contract to award one of these bonehead companies, for Gods sake (and yours) get a very expensive lawyer - make that the first task in your MS Project chart! Preferably an American one who would mud wrestle his own grandmother for a farthing.
Is this the same Accenture who were T Bliar's favourite consultants, the same Accenture responsible for DEFRA's "single payments system" whose implementation was a disaster, the same Accenture of whom the subsequent Parliamentary inquiry said things like:
"Accenture made an unsatisfactory start; while the RPA and Defra disagree with Accenture about whether it was late in supplying parts of the IT system, the systems it delivered were slow and unreliable and not always able to cope with the volumes of work encountered; and its systems were not user-friendly.”
“The difficulty was not that the system did not work, the difficulty was its availability ... the system kept falling over.”
They must be really good at schmoozing to stay in business with a public track record like theirs.
Shame the only people to come out on top in a case like this will be the lawyers.
As an IT graduate who had the "pleasure" of working in a British Gas battery farm, err I mean call centre, this story brings a smile to my face.
Although I only worked there for a few months before escaping to a decent job, it was clear from the start that the systems had been put together by a bunch of chimps.
Nothing worked like it should do, none of the sytems communicated with the others and no one in management was prepared to admit this.
Instead we were just told to grin and bear it, having to spend four or five times as long on each call because the Siebel system would crash, freeze or mix up one account with another.
And as for the comments blaming staff at BG for billing problems. I would bet my house that the people you spoke to were doing exactly what they said they were. They weren't lying, they were just having their actions cancelled by an IT system that was even more inept than the people that designed it.
So if you're still having problems with your billing, don't shoot the messenger on the end of the line - they'll be as sick and tired off it as you, with the difference that they deal with it for 8 or 10 hours every day!
Q: How many BG employees does it take to issue a bill ?
Q: How much will it cost ya to do all the work yourself (and hit the wall) and have Accenture sitting on their hands (watching you hitting the wall whilst making sure there won't be any jurisdicktional trail back to them).
Remember B G (& its pre-privatisation predecessors) have been sending bills to customers for 60 years. They know what they want & what they expect.
At one time BG had the largest non-governmental database in Europe. It worked, & it worked well.
My money's on the benevolent ex-Monopoly.
I can't believe how ill informed some of these comments are!
- "Weren't they Anderson Consulting, rebranded (obscenely expensively) by marketing tw@s?
- "...can anyone name any successful Accenture project, i can recall at least 3 multi million pound projects that went awry.
Answer: Yes. Lots. The thing is, bad press about IT projects is much more interesting to read than projects which went well. It's the equivalent of Britney Spears going into rehab: Interesting. Britney Spears doing well: Not interesting.
I realise the comments section is open to all, but some of these comments are ludicrous. They're generally anecdotal "my mate told me this about Accenture..." etc. etc.
I have worked with Accenture a lot. Some of their people have been poor. Some have been phenomenal. The bottom line is that Accenture keeps on getting hired because it generally delivers and has a strong track record of delivery. The old boy network, golf course discussions and the like aren't enough to sustain this $20bn + company.
One thing many people tend to forget, and this is relevant to many UK Government projects, if the client doesn't listen and if the client thinks it knows best then in general things tend to go wrong. I don't know the details of the Centrica case but I know from other IT large programs that a client's ambition far outstrips its ability to deliver (even with a large consultancy helping). It isn't always the case either that Accenture, nor other consultancy firms "sit there and take the money". That's an incredibly short-term and short-sighted approach; one that will come back to bite you in this small industry. If that was the case Accenture could have remained on the NHS IT programme, milked it for all it was worth rather than raising the danger flags to the UK Govt and getting out.
Anonymous Coward: your comment about Accenture supposedly putting in systems they know won't work and then hitting the client for Change Requests looks like it was written for Viz's Letter Pages or straight out of an Aldridge Prior ("Hopeless Liar") story.
"Accenture and "Andersen Consulting" are two different firms."
I direct you to steer your broyser to:
Read & inwardly digest.
Once digested, imagine how many marketing tw@s paid off their mortgage on that sweet little deal..
I still maintain that "Accenture" = talking funny + shite.
So I can twiddle my thumbs in the public sector IT circus doing desktop support for £20k/PA on contract, generally lazing around not doing much and not having to use my [fairly good, as it happens] hardware and systems knowledge too much...
...or I could twiddle my thumbs in the public and private sector IT consultancy circus for Accenture/CG etc doing project management and making pretty flowcharts for £20k/quarter, generally lazing around not doing much and not having to use my [fairly good, as it happens] hardware and systems knowledge at all!
Shit, I think I have just worked out my next career move!
Anon, cos my public sector bosses read El Reg too - hi guys!
Mines the one stuffed to the collar with fresh £20s and the keys to the 911 turbo in the pocket, all paid for by a nice, chunky utility company/public body.
PS: The wasp/nettle analogy is utterly bob-on!
Me too. Though in my case I wasn't even a customer. I was with Southern Electric Gas when I got a surprise letter bemoaning the fact I was leaving them. Stunned, I phoned up to ask what it was all about. They informed me that BG were taking over my account. I was furious and told them to put a stop to it right away. I then phoned BG to complain and told them to stop what ever they were doing.
I thought that was the end of it until I received a bill for a "Mrs Mallone" at my address. I called BG and explained that Mrs Mallone doesn't live here (never has) and grilled them to discover what was going on. Turns out that someone called Mrs Mallone somewhere else in my neighborhood had agreed to switch to BG, and the slimy git who hood winked her on the doorstep wrote down the wrong address. I explained in no uncertain terms that they'd made a mistake, and the rep on the phone assured me it would be sorted out and I wouldn't hear from them again.
Well, they cancelled Mrs Mallone's service, but then sent her a bill for £19 for the service she'd used while she was connected.
To cut a very long story short: after 18 months, several more phone calls, several more letters to Mrs Mallone from BG, and even a letter from the Bailiffs (chasing the £19) I finally managed to put the whole thing to bed.
BG have blown their chance of ever landing me as a customer, and they never did get their £19.
Andersen Consulting, dolts.
They were part of Arthur Andersen who went under during the Enron debacle. Also sometime employers of the unlamented Ms P. Hewitt.
IIRC Andersen Consulting was a 'completely different' firm from Arthur Andersen who themselves also had lots of completely unrelated offshoots in all sorts of places and the fact they all had the same name and were linked from the same website meant that they were actually completely different companies.
Anyhow, good news, perhaps it'll be an alligator vs. python contest.
....not these two particularly but a local authority client that aggressively pursued what it doesn’t know it doesn't want and a hawkish consultancy (CMG Logica). They pulled me in as an afterthought to train 8,000 employees (incl dinner ladies and dustmen) on SAP's ERP modules. Imagine that?
The lower end of their audience didn't even earn enough to own computers so how was I supposed to create something non-intimidating enough to train them on something as arcane as SAP's ERP system?
Unlike Accenture, my solution was not to build something I knew wouldn't work (ethics you know): I created a proof of concept e-learning system showing them what they would need to do in order to arrange digging a hole in a road. Eventually both parties got the message about digging a hole and went off to have some adult discussions.
PTSD looming, I walked to a better life. Ridiculously lucrative, it may have been for me and I still think that I was the only winner on that one but I couldn't, hand on heart, walk in there day after day and string it out just earn to outrageous amouhts of cash.
This kind of situation can burn you as piggy in the middle.
I note that you didn't mention a successful project at all. You fudged.
Whats the point of your posting and your bland assurances when you can't even mention one successful project?
Good marketing makes for good business. In IT no supplier or management is generally blamed but 60% of all major projects fail to deliver.
Incompetence reigns over all IT management :-
You have project managers who can't write a "Hello World" in any language. CIO's who can't configure their email accounts.
Infrastructure architects who have no knowledge of how their clients conduct business.
Enterprise architects who think that a diagram is an important deliverable.
Managers who believe Gartner on any topic.
CEO's who still place IT under finance.
Accenture are probably unlucky to be the subject of focus. Except in a vanishingly small number of cases, the whole industry delivers crap results.
Thank you mr andersen. They have always been known as andersen droids, and never fail to raise a chuckle when they manage to wangle their way from one disaster to another.
I suspect they, along with the other hippos of IT, account for the high failure rate of IT projects. And yes it is because they have a load of let's stick our posing pouches in the fire types, instead of agile development experts.
Next branding name change could be, 'Chuckle Squad', because if you cannot laugh after what they leave you with, you will certainly be crying at the bill :)
"I really, really, really, REALLY hope m'learned friends bankrupt the pair of them."
An ISIRTA John Cleese quote ran through my mind: "... furthermore, m'learned friend is neither learned nor my friend. With m'lord's permission, I shall henceforth refer to him as 'my stupid enemy'..."
Joke doing the 'round while AC was still part of AA:
A shepherd was standing by a dirt road, tending his flock and directing his sheepdog, when a 4WD pulls up besdie him and a man dressed in an impeccable business suit steps out and addresses him. "That's quite a fine herd you have there... if I guess how many you have, might I have one of them?"
The shepherd scratches his chin and answers "I reckon so..." at which point the man in the suit brings out a laptop, hooks it up to a portable satellite station, request an orbital fly-by by an imaging satellite, downloads the resulting pictures, runs them through a dozen analysis softwares, imports the data into a spreadsheet and prints out a ream of reports before look at the shepherd and saying "183."
"That's right" says the shepherd. The business-suited man grabs one of the animals and places it in the 4WD and starts to pack up when the shepherd asks him "If I can guess what your job is, can I have my animal back?"
"Sure" answers the man, at which point the shepherd immediately states "You are a consultant for Andersen Consulting". The man blinks at him and says "That's right. How do you know?"
"I was happily minding my own business when you turned up un-announced to tell me something I already knew and charged me for it. More importantly, you have no idea what my business is; you've just taken my dog."
Got in this quarter's bill from B.Gas and it seemed a bit steep.
So I got the previous bill, calculated the usage of the current bill with the previous rates.
Compared the current bill with the calcuated one and the difference is up £130... wtf???
Is this price increase just in case B.Gas loses?
"Complaints have fallen 85%". Only if you exclude my daily attempts to get those cretins to sort things out for me. I've been trying to get them to send me a domestic bill since August 2007, still waiting, but I've had loads of bills for all sorts of amounts (most fail to relate to me at all), numerous debt collection letters, threats of extra charges being applied (they think I'm a business), and so on.
What they haven't done:
(a) Send me the correct bill they promised on 9th Feb
(b) Responded to any of my 1,451 faxes (I set a repeat fax in desperation to get responses - even Abbey National got that hint)
(c) Transferred me to domestic
(d) Responded to the 6 Recorded Delivery Letters
What they have done:
(a) Sent me a sorry I'm leaving letter when I gave up and just switched away
(b) Continued to send me various random bills, and debt collection notices.
If it's Accenture's fault then no suprises, but I can't help think at least in part they're incompetent.
How many more failures must society endure before the lazy, fuckwit bullshitter "consultants" and "executives" get turfed out on their ears, yes fired to fuck, penniless NOT asked to resign with golden parachutes and other such nonsense.
It's well passed high time these jokers learned that there is a price pay for FAILURE.
I had some interesting times (chinese sense) in two parallel multimillion projects with Accidential Adventure (formerly known as Arrogant & Clueless) as a specialist from the client side (large financial). In both cases they flew in special blame staff towards the end whose only job was to make shure they kept a clean shirt. They wrote the protocols to weekly status meeting and we spent the rest of the week to get the protocol to faintly resemble what was beeing agreed in the meeting.
Both products were not nearly in a running state when being declared as delivered and us internal staff spent a lot of time to pick up the pieces and get it to fly (luckily there was some internal staff in both projects so not all knowledge went out when the accentureboys left).
Of the literally hundreds of accentureboys I met in those project there was only one guy who knew what he was doing. He bore the title manager, never managed anything but instead was firefighting in both projects simultaneously to fix the mess the others had comitted. Interestingly enough, he was about the only nice person in there - not at all arrogant like the rest.
Accidential Adventure has not been seen since those two projects... go figure...
So.. you've not named a single project?
I can think of 3 in the past 6 months i've seen go in, one of which would have cost tens of millions.
They have all followed the same route. Some muppet comes in, probably fresh out of university to design a solution to a system utilising technology that they have no specialist knowledge in. They then build a solution based on this flakey design for the next few months and whilst approaching towards their deadline, instead of revisiting the original flawed design, constantly apply band aid fixes to the code. The system then gets pushed into a pre-live environment, fails miserably after at most 2 weeks of 24/7 testing (and i mean 24/7) and it goes live anyway. Months on, the code is still unstable in a live environment and accenture are making millions out of providing "fixes" to the code which does not fix the root cause.
The cost is astronomic - fresh out of university "consultants" with a weeks training on a complex product which they had no prior knowledge of are charged out at £1k/day and i expect a hideously high hourly overtime rate.
I've seen one recent solution which i could have built on my own in 2-3 weeks, instead they've had a team of people produce something remarkably substandard that needs to meet an industry solution so will have to go live no matter what. it'll cost a fortune to support but management don't seem to want to admit that hiring Accenture was a massive mistake that cost the company millions - i wonder why!
Rules change. The game remains the same.
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