When I first started my business, I knew there were quite a number of projects that had resources who couldn’t finish their work. I don’t mean that they couldn’t finish in a reasonable time, but that they literally couldn’t finish anything, at all. I knew this partly from working with these projects but also from running into customers who told me about their projects at user group meetings or discussions the phone. I thought this was the best source of revenue I could find. I was wrong on that account.

Reason #1: Managers and Project Managers are Busy

When managers and project managers are especially busy, they tend not to notice that a person isn’t able to perform. Surprisingly, this can be true on a small project (and some people are major-class con artists on why they can’t finish, by the way) but it’s more common than you might imagine on large projects. Other project members tend to make up some portion of that work, whether they’re doing it to purposely protect the under-performing resource or not. This can hide the issue from the manager or project manager.

These days, merely the fact that everyone is just so busy and overwhelmed accounts for a great deal of this problem.

Reason #2: It’s Hard to Fire Someone

While the laws vary from state-to-state, here in the US, and while each company has different policies regarding what it would take to get rid of people who don’t perform, even beyond that, it can be difficult for a manager to get rid of a person, especially if they’ve never before had to fire someone.

Sometimes, it’s out of pity. Other times, out of fear that the person will get angry. There are all types of reasons. The bottom line is that it’s just not that easy for a lot of people to actually do it.

Reason #3: It Can be Hard to Get Rid of Consultants

While the idea of having consultants on projects is supposed to be that they bring an expertise that you don’t have and easy to get rid of once you no longer need them, that’s not always how it works out.

One situation I run into on large projects or projects who are using larger services groups, is that the rules behind what it would take to get rid of a resource can be difficult to actually accomplish. Where my general rule is that, when we’re all finished with what you and I think I should be doing for you I should be considered done, it’s not usually that flexible when you work with larger services groups.

I’m just going to give you a couple examples, but I have many – these are just the two that first pop into my head. In any case, I was on one project where a resource literally did no work for the entire six months of their contract. The customer argued about this with their software vendor who had sent the person for almost the entire six months but, in the end, it was easier to just let the person go at the end of the contract (and they got no replacement, which wasn’t ideal, but still better than paying someone to do nothing; and, no, there was no discount nor refund, either).

In another example, there was a consultant who didn’t do very much, what little they did conformed to no standard the massive (and regulated) customer was trying to follow, and had a tendency to cause trouble of various sorts. In this case, the customer merely did their best to sideline the consultant until their six month contract was up and then they took no more people from that particular consulting firm for that project (again, no discount nor refund was involved).

A Trend

Do you see a trend, here? Do you see that projects will sometimes have six-month contracts for the individual resources? I think this is part of the reason why – if someone doesn’t work out, you can just keep them until the end of the contract and then not allow them to renew and losing six months of money is better than, say, a years-worth of money.

If it seems crazy that this is easier and better than going through the work to prove they’re not performing and to get a new resource or refund, it is, but it’s the way some of the contracts are written.

Even Crazier

So, let’s do the math, for a moment, and we’ll keep it simple. Let’s suppose all resources work 40 hours/week. Let’s look at three tiers of resources, for a moment. For six months, a non-performing resource costs this much money (40 hours a week x 26 weeks = 1040 hours).

  • At $80/hour, for a lower-end resource: 1040 hours x $80 = $84,200.
  • At $120/hour, for a more mid-level person: $124,800.
  • At $250/hour, for some of the all-inclusive people coming from software vendors: $260,000.

These are just rough calculations because people don’t always work all these hours – they get sick or take vacation, for example. In addition, there are more costs than just the ones mentioned. In the first two examples, imagine that travel is not included and in the last one, it is included, but there are many other things that bump the cost up.

If Wishes Were Horses

We have the saying that “If wishes were horses than beggars would ride” and it just means that wishing for something doesn’t make it so. Thus, while I started my business thinking “If only I got even the smallest portion of this business, I’d be all set for years to come,” I eventually recognized what wishful thinking this was. As I sit here writing this, there’s a thought wandering around the back of my head saying, “Wow, even now, if only I could find a way to harness all this, I wouldn’t have to be sitting here doing any marketing and writing anything to anybody!” Meanwhile the main part of my brain pulls out the bull whip and keeps the rest of my brain rolling along doing the real work and not just wishing for the improbable.

So, as crazy as all this seems, it does help to partially answer the question, “Why do LIMS/ELN/LES projects continue to cost so much?”

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises