back to article Murdoch hacks grumble over outsourced IT failures

To picturesque Wapping, where unrest among hacks and techies about recent IT cuts at News International is bubbling following a 24-hour email outage yesterday that crippled newsrooms and commercial operations alike. Cast in the role of villain is CIO Andrew Hickey, the man responsible for a broad IT outsourcing deal in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well colour me surprised..

    where I work we have to 'live' with HCL workers messing around with things they don't understand both on-shore and off-shore. And having had the pleasure of working with them directly, I think News International were lucky they lost e-mail for only one day.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't help but be happy about this

    Ha ha, the muppets, proves my point about paying idiots peanuts and hoping you can prevent them from screwing everything up.

    Here's a clue - you won't.

    Not a great management style.

  3. Sandra Greer

    Accenture history, huh?

    New Delhi, huh? Leaving waste and ruin in their path.

    Nuff said. That's a combination everyone should avoid.

    1. chr0m4t1c

      It's possible...

      That the reason he's not at Accenture anymore is because of stuff like this.

      He's right, though, it is entirely possible to run a lot of these systems with off the shelf stuff and low skill staff.

      As long as you don't mind the frequent outages and service problems created by using something that's not fit for purpose.

    2. Elmer Phud
      Thumb Up

      But . . .

      . . . isn't the Sun on of those scandal sheets that harps on about all the jobs going abroad to tinted people?

      The hacks write about it and the results of working for Mudroach is they end up getting shafted - more of the same, please - the cows are coming home.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    optimiZation instead of OptimiSation, StandardiZation not StandardiSation. HCL of Noid...a? Are we a letter missing here?

    Clearly yer man Hickey has a problem with the spell checker as well.

    Am I the only one thinking 'Couldn't happen to a more deserving news organisation'?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spelling?

      Nothing wrong with his spelling. Ever heard of American English?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Spelling?

        Yes, I heard that abomination... Still hurts...

    2. Inachu


      optimiZation instead of OptimiSation, StandardiZation not StandardiSation. HCL of Noid...a? Are we a letter missing here?

      Clearly yer man Hickey has a problem with the spell checker as well.

      Am I the only one thinking 'Couldn't happen to a more deserving news organisation'?


      Europe spells things differently you nerd.

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Duhhhhhhhh

        As an Ancient Britain, I was taught "Oxford" spelling in the 1950s. My trusty Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1984) spells the words optimiZation and standardiZation. Both the Z and S spellings are acceptable - Z infers the writer is American or has a 'good' English education.

        Perhaps he just went to a posh school? Or, possibly, his outsourced staff don't know how to change his default Windows installation to (British) English?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Be careful who you vote for this May.

    If such a sad story is repeated in our public sector by Hickey equivalents there, pandering to a government manifesto of austerity, then the consequences could be more serious than a day's email outage at a national newspaper.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Vive la change!

      Well, I don't think the current government are exactly *preventing* a catastrophe right now.

      GO - please.

  6. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    Or in other words

    "He believes all IT departments from banks to supermarkets to newspapers can be run in the same way: ie just using off-the-shelf software administered by low-skill employees,"

    He's a fuckwit!

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Sounds about as good as Seimens

    Why must people in large media organisations hire LBS graduate retards, let them outsource the IT, and then be surprised when it all goes tits-up?

    Anon, for obvious reasons.

    1. Christoph

      They were warned

      The Sun editors were warned that this would make their "newspaper" go tits-up.

      And they said "Great! Just what our readers want!"

  8. lucsan


    What do they expect when they hire someone out of Accedenture? Maybe he can go fix the NHS IT systems now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It is spelled Accidenture...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Outsourcing journalists

    India has some very good journalists. Let's do a deal and get them for £150 a day. They don't drink as much either.

    Ex-Accenture boys giving lucrative work to their friends. The world doesn't change does it...

  10. Chris Byers

    Best value is not the same as cheap

    The problem with IT outsourceing is that may senior comany execs think that a server\service in India is going to be the same as the one you have here. You simply cannot transfer 10 years+ of customised IT experience via an SLA. Is it any wonder many are now reconsidering these decisions?

  11. Anonymous Coward


    The HCL staff don't entirely understand things like "print deadline", which are quite important in the newspaper industry.

  12. The Indomitable Gall

    Putting it plainly...

    The collective hatred of offshoring is massively unjustified. They do the same job as onshore outsourcers but cheaper.

    The collective dislike of onshore outsourcing is usually justified. The loss of productivity for a one-day outage is usually higher than the savings incurred in not having an internal IT department twiddling their thumbs most of the time.

    But once we move the outsourcing offshore, the savings actually due make up for the loss of productivity.

    Yes, workers, sometimes it genuinely is better for your bosses when you don't do any work.

    Unless of course every single member of your staff has deadlines every single day of the week, every single week of the year, like, I don't know, newspapers?!?!?

    I work for a notable outsourcer, and while I don't know if we bidded or not, I'm pretty confident our bid guys would have proposed an on-site solution as the only suitable answer....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      not in my experience

      I work with HCL, and in every case our inhouse team have had to do more work supporting the outsourced work, than we would have had to do to build the thing ourselves.

      It's not about skills, as we've had to train the offshore teams. The only way it's cheaper, is on paper. in that you get a project manager, and offshore coordinator, and onshore coordinator and a developer, for the price of one developer. The actual productivity is less.

      Somebody somewhere gets to say i have a team of 200 people offshore, for the same price as 20 inhouse developers, no-one ever ties back that you probably could do the same work, to a higher standard with the 20 inhouse developers.

      I continue to maintain, that offshore outsourcing, just isn't cost effective. You have the language barrier - yes everyone speaks english, but not fluently. pidgin English code comments and design documents are a nightmare to unpick. Also, your carefully worded spec, may or may not be understood in the same way as you intended.

      You have cultural differences, ties back to language, but this is a biggie, this is one we rub up against constantly, it manifests to us as no-one using any initiative whatsoever, you get exactly what you ask for without question or consideration that it will do what it's supposed to.

      Things work differently within companies too, we never seem to work with the same group of peopel twice, so every project is a training excercise on our part. We train up a team of developers, just get the code up to a standard we can accept and the project ends, next project, rinse and repeat with a new team.

      You have the simple timezone differences, which means a 5 min email back and forth can take a week due to people working at different times. Having no physical presence is also more problematic than you'd expect in IT, being able to get everyone sat around a table together, to go through designs is invaluable. Sharepoint isn't a substitute!

      One of the problems we've had, is that we aren't allowed to tell the people higher up the problems we've had. It can be a train wreck from start to finish, we step in and pull a project out of the gutter at the last minute, as we'd take the fall if it failed, and that gets reported through as "<offshorer of choice> did a great job in getting that last project implemented, lets use them again for the next one"

      1. Anonymous Coward

        But in my experience.

        I'll just highlight one of your statements:

        "Also, your carefully worded spec, may or may not be understood in the same way as you intended."

        A colleague of mine spent some time on the other side of the planet with the outsourcers and became quite pally with some of their grunts. They let slip a few things they probably shouldn't have.

        Most interesting was the reason behind that little problem. Their primary driver from their management was not to fulfil the customer's requirements, but to look for ways of generating new revenue for the company. Thus, if your spec could *possibly* be read any way other than that which you intended it to be read you can bet that it bloody well would be (As per spec - Change Request - additional work on T&M - Ka-ching).

        Now try writing a spec of which no part can, no matter how hard someone whose bonus depends on it may try, mean anything other than that intended. I, for one, can write the bloody thing in executable code faster than that!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You said it....

      I worked for News International for 10 years until Thickey made me surplus to requirements. (Thanks for the fat pay-off by the way Andy). During that time News never had an outage this serious, mainly due to the calibre of staff that were employed during that time.

      Furthermore, they never lost an edition or came close to it.. Now as the Indomitable Gall alludes to, the true measure that outsourcing works for the Newspaper industry is whether the paper comes out during the 4 hour or so daily production window day in day out.

      General opinion of the remaining IT staff is incredulity that they have managed this long without losing an edition, given the incompetence of HCL (or to be fairer, their ignorance of Newspaper production) It's fair to say it's not if this will happen but when. Then will the shit truly hit the fan.

      They have even managed to lose the source code to their in-house written Editorial Production system for God's sake. Bet the auditors would love to hear about that...

      A not too disgruntled ex-employee

  13. Mark_W

    Typical of Outsourced IT.

    Every time I've been through the IT Outsourcing loop it's always ended in failure. To keep costs down the Outsourcing companies pay badly, and as they say, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. But the cost to the business from lost productivity when the systems are down is massive. SLA's aren't worth the paper their printed on when the chips are down.

    They should sack their CIO, recruit someone with a small amount of clue and get back skilled staff to run the operation properly, rather than cutting the corners to outsourcing. It may look cheaper, but I bet they lost more yesterday in revenue and productivity than they have made in outsourcing savings over a 12 month period!

    That's a bit like the bank who scrimped on the SAN software and ended up screwing their SAN when someone extended the LUN and nearly devauling the Euro. A £500 licence cost ended up with a 7 figure fine on their bottom line.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Off the shelf outsourcing never works.

    You can see this happening anywhere.

    It's the same old cycle.

    Innovators create the software.

    Completer finishers finalise it.

    Architects (now the product's making money to afford them,) come in, and talk about models all day, introducing a few third party products of their own, "because the existing solution doesn't scale" despite it running on sub 1% resources, and outselling all the company's best other assets.

    Architects having caused a few problems, "software engineering" consultants now come in, usually sandlewearing beared types who talk with a nasal tone, know the W3C standards by heart, and who've read software engineering from a book, and never delivered anything, and say, "You need some design patterns, N-tier, messaging and outsourced search." to gullible management who pay them a grand a day.

    This fails, because it's one size fits all bollocks and the consultants have never delivered anything. The scope is changed from faster, and more scalable, to "fast enough" and "it handles all the customers it needs." by middle management to avoid having to say "We just spent hundreds of thousands to get to a worse place."

    The management of the day, hire in more children, plus one guy in a £2000 suit, in the form of the bane of techie's lives - management consultants.

    The children go around with clip boards interviewing the staff, and the man with a £2000 suit makes a report saying the problems are what they've just been told and he "recommends an off the shelf" product because there's no work for him to do in this case.

    All the techies that can leave, being disgusted, leave, usually including the Architect, who moves onto another architect role, and all the steady talent that hung over from the original setup.

    The company is now at the mercy of management consultants who bleed the place dry, because the upper management value the statements from a man in a suit, over the statements from the Autistic IT guy in stained polo shirt and paint spattered (at least it looks like paint) track suit bottoms.


  15. Anonymous Coward

    Warms the cockles of my heart......

    I was one of the 39 individuals that was TUPE'd across to HCL last June as part of the outsourcing

    initiative. To say this has put a smile on my face is an understatement.

    When HCL initially attached their network to NI's, it brought down the NI mail servers for

    three days. Yes we were running exchange servers, but up to that point there was need to run

    any anti-virus software other than End Point Protection. This was a perfectly stable solution - until

    the virus ridden network of HCL joined ours and all hell broke loose. At the time James Murdoch

    told 'Tricky Hickey' that he did not want this to happen again - I'd love to have been a fly on the

    wall when the chinless wonder tried to justify the recent events ( From the side, Mr Hickey looks

    like a Turkey so calling him chinless is not too unkind)

    Anyway, an unfortunate colleague of mine felt the brunt of HCL's incompetence when they

    took over the support infrastructure at vodaphone a number of years back and guess what?

    HCL took there network down as well!! They have a problem with repeating the same mistakes

    and never learning from them. Please, if anyone reading this has had exposure to HCL and

    feels this statement is unfair then please say so. I won't go into the problem last September when

    the HCL knowledge transfer team managed to forcibly mount a 3Tb filesystem on

    one node in a cluster whilst still mounted on the other node - our saving grace was VxFS.......

    Last but not least, when it came to signing our 'compromise agreements' which were

    essentially pieces of paper promising that we would not bad mouth HCL,

    the rather astute Solicitor that we hired pointed out that it only applied to HCL Great Britian

    and not India.

    Therefore, HCL Great Britain; Mustard, true as the day is long, trust 'em with me Grannies'

    life. HCL India; Now fit to work down the docks w*nking for coins.....

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward

      the Emperor's new clothes

      Your well out of it mate, for mugs like me still waiting for redundo we have to sit & watch the car wreck happening. No-one wants to change anything now: even unix passwords, for fear of being blamed, so we have the endless ITIL drivel, waiting for CAB approvals and constantly hearing "I'm not technical" from the managers who are more interested in getting the latest apps for their blackberries.

      To be honest, the Indians are just doing what they're told, can't blame them for that, it's just a shame that those higher up the food chain don't seem to have a clue what a mess it all is.

  16. The_Police!


    AHAHAHAHAHAH. Serves News Internation Right. We can get decent IT bods in this country to run systems but I guess Outsourcing is the buzz word. Hence I can not get a IT job.

    That is all!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Maybe the reason you can't get a job is because you're stupid, there seems to be a lot of work out there from where I'm sitting. Don't blame your lack of a job on offshoring.

  17. Paul 185

    what's the point?

    I really don't understand the philosophy behind this practice. If you aren't willing to pay the engineers that keep the company running a reasonable wage, where does the money that your productive company earns go? I mean we can be certain that outsourcing to the lowest overseas bidder will certainly not improve service, so why do it?

    Cutting corners on the most essential parts of your business just doesn't make sense to me.

    I'm not trying to push a "lazy manager are taking all our cash" agenda here, I just really don't see how anyone in charge could view this as a good idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: what's the point

      There's one very simple point to this.

      As an employee, which even Hickey is, you get performance objectives. At that level, they are tied in with some pretty serious bonus money.

      Now suppose your objectives are... "cut IT costs by 10% per year for the next 5 years" (and not "cut IT costs by 10% per year for the next 5 years without degrading service levels").

      What's the best way to do this? Get rid of all your expensive resources (typically the ones you had been wanting to hold on to) and replace them with cheaper ones. Sure, there may be some redundancy costs, but that's going to come out of the corporate bucket and not the IT one, so your bonus is not affected.

      Sure, the company is going to go down the toilet (as we're seeing), but so what? You're meeting your objectives and getting a big fat bonus. With any luck, the real problems won't happen until after you've left anyway...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    hmmm no wonder...

    i cant get a job either....

    since leaving Voda' just before they started the uncle Saruns jobs for lads at home Project.

    looks like my only option is to relocate to a country with a very pro-active anti-immigrant stance that has gangs of vigilantes handing out punishment beatings(or worse) to anyone who isnt slavic or western european looking.

    Aa now where's my bolshoi book of Crylic words....

    the copter? Aa its a MIL :)

  19. johnny_cto

    You've got him all wrong...

    As the CTO of this prestigous organization, I can flatly deny that I had anything to do with this incident.

    I'm right behind Andy: the comments these wicked people are making are based on jealousy and the fact that we pushed them out and replaced them with HCL contractors on dubious visas.

    I have extensive knowledge of publishing software, having edited this picture in Photoshop and I know what pdf stands for (print the damn file). Mr Thickey is a nice man who's kind to children (especially those employed by HCL).

    JK Rowlings

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      Checked photo.


  20. Adam Williamson 1

    Staying over there, taking our jobs...

    ...sounds like a perfect topic for a Sun editorial, right?

  21. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Wapping etc.

    First, remind me, why is News Corp. in Wapping?

    Outsourcing, face it, runs on the Charlie Sheen principle: You don't pay them to show up, you pay them to go away.

  22. Cazzo Enorme

    Just to add my tuppence

    Comments here mirror my experience of offshoring. A three month development project that was eventually canceled after fifteenth months, during which time the Indian developers could not deliver code that compiled, let alone worked. I actually got so pissed off with it that I did the project myself, pulling all nighters so my other projects didn't slip off schedule. Took me two weeks - and this was for a system that interfaced with one the offshore firm "maintained" for another company, which is the only reason I reluctantly agreed for management to use the f*ckers in the first place.

    It's not the language barrier, it's cultural. The offshore development firms I've worked with will promise anything to get the contract. In the case described above, they agreed to develop in Java, claiming it was an environment their developers knew. Turns out their developers were actually Visual Basic programmers, which we found out when we queried why the code was full of bizarre idioms and beginner style mistakes.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Another HCL victim writes...

    I am one of the victims of outsourcing to HCL. The multinational I work for has just lost an entire day of productivity because the cretins overseas thought that sending a command that shut down every server might be a good idea. With time differences this took extra time to resolve and the figure being bandied around is a loss of six million quid (3% of annual revenue). But hey, at least the outsourcing is saving them money!

  25. Eduard Coli


    Stockholders should look forward to getting reamed.

    Outsourcing is usually a prelude to crime.

  26. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    These Con-tractors

    sound like the pitch like con-sultants.

    The answer is "Yes of *course* we use Jave/VB/C++/Eiffel/Erlang/WTFlanguage you use so give us the contract."

    ERP con-sultants comments apply.

  27. Big-nosed Pengie


    "He believes all IT departments from banks to supermarkets to newspapers can be run in the same way: ie just using off-the-shelf software administered by low-skill employees,"

    Well, why not? It works for his news media.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ill-founded belief

    "He believes all IT departments from banks to supermarkets to newspapers can be run in the same way: ie just using off-the-shelf software administered by low-skill employees"

    ...and this is probably true just as long as everything is ticking along and all they have to do is drink coffee and browse the Internet. It is a different story when things start to go wrong and everyone starts to realise that the people who actually understood how all their systems were integrated are long gone.

    I have been contracting for over 20 years now and have worked on both sides of the outsourcing fence. It seems that companies take about ten years to forget the lessons of the past and repeat the same mistakes.

  29. duncan campbell

    Couldn't happen to better folks...

    I've been on the 'net for 35 years, have spent more than half my life in "Cyberia",

    and have worked with numerous multi-national, physically dispersed teams.

    It is possible to establish the same kinds of working relationships on the 'net as

    one does in person, but it takes 10 times as long and takes 3 times the effort.

    Hope that @$$#0!3 Merduck enjoys his Spam raw.


  30. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Time for Murdoch to go Google?

    Oh, I forgot. He hates them.

    But that hasn't stop him deploying Google Apps for and the Sky Broadband/Sky Broadcasting part of his company, has it?

    If The Sun and The Times went Google, that wouldn't on, would it, especially since the competition (The Grauniad and the Telegraph) have already done so successfully.

    <strokes chin>

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I told you so

    How many meetings did we have Mr. Hickey where I told you this would happen. All I can say now is I told you so.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Be VERY afraid

    OK, so the newspaper's systems failed for a day or so, and some salacious shite about Z-list celebrities wasn't published.

    What you should be afraid of is our Government owned Banks and Building Societies outsourcing their critical systems and services. Might have slightly larger repercussions if payment services go down on payday.

    From the film Armageddon - "You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it? "

    Outsourcing is a "political" move made by accountants to make to books look better. It removes head count and costs from one column to another. It is NOT cheaper. It does NOT save money. It's simply cooking the books.

    (AC - These comments are personal, created from my personal computer, and in no way reflect the opinions of anyone else, especially not of my employer.)

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Read it & weep

    Don't know whether to laugh or cry:

    "We will leverage our experience in transforming the IT operations landscape of hundreds of global enterprise and our globally benchmarked best practices in Infrastructure Management to add exponential value to News International," said Pradeep Bindal, Senior Vice President and Worldwide Head of Sales for Infrastructure Management and Transformation Services, HCL Technologies Infrastructure Services Division.

  34. gimbal

    In other words...

    .... the honeymoon is over, but the suit doesn't realize it yet?

    Oh if only Hickey had an army of marketroids to deploy, to us, so in order to decypher for us, every detail of his cryptic business-looking nonsense speak. Thanks for the attempt though, Reg, I guess that's what one could imagine he meant.

  35. Glen Turner 666

    No comment, from a news organisation

    "..but refused to discuss the cause further or make any other comment."

    Oh, I just love it when a media corporation slams down the shutters during bad news. The sweet smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

  36. z0mb13e

    Disaster recovery that relied on AD?

    WTF kind of disaster recovery system is tied into Active Directory? That's just a disaster waiting to happen...

  37. Anonymous Coward

    An experiment gone horribly wrong

    I work at News International and I can tell you the outsourcing of IT to India was an experiment that went horribly wrong. Probably an insider deal too.

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