I recently wrote about the huge failure rate in software projects. Currently only about a quarter of software projects are successful, another quarter are complete disasters, and the rest fall somewhere in between.
Considering the high rate of failure, lawsuits against vendors that produce such disasters are rare. So it was surprising for me to see that MillerCoors has filed a lawsuit against the Indian H-1B bodyshop HCL. HCL is the company that supplied Disney with H-1B replacements when the "Most Miserable Place on Earth" got rid of its American programmers. MillerCoors seeks $100 million in compensatory damages in its lawsuit.
The last time I remember something like this was two decades ago. UOP filed a lawsuit against Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) for failing to deliver such a project. UOP released embarrassing emails from Andersen's consultants that described the project to the Wall Street Journal. Andersen even had the audacity to file a lawsuit against UOP for releasing the emails.
The reason one might expect more lawsuits of this type is that the computer consulting business operates under the principle of AFAB (Anything for a Buck).
Let us suppose that your company decided that it needs a 100-story tower, located in a 200 square foot lot, and that it has be erected and occupied within 10 months. If your company took those requirements to construction companies, none would take on your ill-conceived project. You would get lectures about building codes; no civil engineer wants to have a collapsed building on his record.
Now, if due to a lack of technical expertise, your company came up with the software equivalent of this ill-conceived building project and took it to major computer consulting companies, you would be hard pressed to find one that would turn you down. Even though they would know in advance that the project would fail, they would not walk away from revenue and would structure the payments to make money off of it. When your software project inevitably collapsed, there would not be a crumpled pile of twisted steel beams surrounded by an emergency vehicles and TV news helicopters. When your consulting company walked away after the disaster, it will do so silently with revenue from by-the-hour billing.
These vendors also have the laws of software consulting on their side:
- First Law of Software Consulting: For every software vendor that screws up a project there is a customer management team that screwed up by hiring that vendor.
- Second Law of Software Consulting: Whenever there is a software disaster brought on by a vendor, the customer's management is just as eager to cover up the disaster.
You cannot hide a building collapse, but when a vendor delivers a software disaster, the customer's normal reaction is to cover it up rather than file a lawsuit that will make the disaster public. As I write this, ComputerWorld is the only news outlet that has picked up on the MillerCoors lawsuit.
When I see a company like MillerCoors filing such a lawsuit, my thought is that those responsible for bringing HCL on board have already left MillerCoors and are wreaking havoc on some other poor company.
The beauty of the H-1B program in the outsourced software development business is that it allows companies to create software disasters at a lower worker-per-hour costs.