Thursday, March 11, 2010

And the money went to...

Warning.. if you are a "consultant", you probably won't like some of what I have to say...

I've been in the "computer industry" for about 30 years now, my links going all the way back to a Commodore PET 2001, with a cassette drive for backup and loading. Building, fixing, support... being a programmer, systems, and business analyst.  When I program, I write really good code, and generally speaking it works the first time with minimal bugs (if any).  So when I started working for the City of Edmonton several years ago, I thought I found my dream job and I could offer some really great apps combined with years of knowledge in support and setup of systems. 

And I did.  Often completing programming requests in 2 weeks or less, sometimes even in a couple of days.  The largest project was a re-write of an existing application that, I was told, originally took four people two years to create.  This re-write took me just shy of 3 months to do, all by myself... and had probably 10 times the features of the original program.

With out a doubt, the biggest "eye opener" I had while being with the City, was the use of consultants and the incredible cost and waste of time that was within the consulting process.  There was one consultant in particular, who had acquired their MCSE by reading books and then taking the tests.  They were being charged out at a rate of $70 per hour.  I was often approached by this consultant, and asked "how do I do this?" and I would explain the process, even at times assisting with creating the code.  I saw their little project when it was done and to say the functionality and design was about as equivalent to a first year programmer with zero experience is.. well.. being polite.  Basically a 3 or 4 day job at best, took about a month.  And the department was more than happy to pay for it.

Why is that?  Well, the answer is pretty simple.  Meetings and discussions... lots of them... over coffee... and chatting with people in the hallways. 80% socialization, 20% work.

Now there is the Canadian Taxpayer Federation saying that the money spent on the City website was (my words) "excessive".

When you look at the site, it is pretty, with lots of graphics and videos.  But with todays RAD (rapid application development) tools, the time it would take for an experienced web programmer to build this application is pretty short.  Guessing perhaps at a couple of months, and maybe a wage cost that's certainly less than $50,000.  Hell, even having 2 people working on the project, that would be $25,000 each for a couple of months of work.  Something we all wish we could make, I am sure.

So why did this project cost so much?  I can only guess... and I think if you apply the above situation, you will see how the City uses those tax payer dollars, way too often.  I for one, would love to see the true cost break down on the time spent, what was paid and to whom, the cost of the graphics, equipment, etc.

Of course, this is not the only example of waste, because when you think about it... this is exactly the process that drove the Federal Gun Registry program from what should have been at best, 3 to 5 million dollars... into something that I believe was well over a billion dollars.

Don't you think it's time to clean up this waste?  I do...

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