I read the Signal vs. Noise blog run by the 37 signals guys. It's a good read most of the time. Sometimes they come off a little too religious for my liking (Simple! Fast! No spec! Get Real!). leaving me with little hope that they could take on a real "enterprise" project. By "enterprise" I mean massive. integrated. stuck working with old data. "legacy" bad choices and nasty data formats.
All of the things they seem to work on are new code. Of course it's going to be fast and work well! you're not dealing with the cruft of decisions made long ago!
So when i read an article like Computer Project Awash in Red Ink. I naturally think of them first. What would they do?
My next thought is "geez...Oracle really screwed the pooch on that one." then I think "wow. Philly can't manage it's way out of a paper bag."
$18 million. I bet (and this isn't just hyperbole) that you could get two or three teams of 3 developers each to focus on a particular module of the system and have a functional effort done within a year. What's the max cost on that? 9 developers. let's consider the cost of them being there at $150.000 each. total cost to Philly under $1.5 million. Round up to 2 so it sounds like a real budget and let the hiring process begin.
Instead. Oracle goes and tries to rig one of their off the shelf products to match the requirements and fails miserably. Then. using the same folks who made that decision. they decide to write their own. That fails too. Big shock!
Attention people who make decisions about IT investments:
Just because the company you're hiring to do work for you has a big name doesn't mean they're smart -- it means you are going to overpay for substandard work!
There are plenty of talented companies in the greater Philadelphia area who would have willingly jumped in on this. People who do outstanding work for many. many other clients. The big firms charge exorbitant rates (>$200/hr and up to $400 in some cases!) for the work being done by employees fresh out of college. How is that working in the best interests of your client?
In the era of SOA and web services. having your technology chief say something like this:
"Neff. as well as then-City Finance Director Janice Davis. pushed for Oracle because the firm also was going to be revamping the computer systems of several other city departments. Neff and Davis thought it made sense that the systems all be compatible."
...should be a fireable offense.
Thousands of technology professionals in the region would have shouted you down for using that as your decision basis. Maybe there should be an external technology oversight board to make sure these kinds of decisions are never made again.