back to article State of Maine lays off 15 independent consultants on $13k a month amid efforts to implement troubled Workday system

The US State of Maine has laid off 15 independent IT contractors, each paid $13,000 a month, who were working on its paused project to implement a new Workday HR and finance system, which is at least two years late and millions of dollars over budget. What exactly the contractors were doing during March is open to question …

  1. Notas Badoff

    Before the RFP

    For any given size of project, shouldn't every government or business organization have to show they've studied two or more postmortems of projects of the same size or larger? If they become acquainted with the problem that more projects "go dead" than "go live" maybe caution will enter in?

    Ah, no. Zombie staffs breed zombie projects. And those living undead strangely eat currency.

    1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

      Re: Before the RFP

      I'm currently going through a "transformation project" to implement SAP at work. Not just SAP, but SAP with bells, whistles and 3 add on programs. Once the ridiculous project managers and stupid admin got their heads together and designed a rolls Royce on paper, we are now 3.5 years into integrating what should have been a far simpler project.

      The IT project managers have made a mint though, so that's the most important thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Before the RFP

        Once programme and project managers get their grubby mitts on requirements, hilarity and wailing will ensue.

      2. FlamingDeath Silver badge

        Re: Before the RFP

        The great thing about being a project manager, is you can move from one shitshow to another with very little comeback.

        An old friend of mine who does project managing as a job, laughs about it often

      3. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: Before the RFP

        SAP? We're doing the same thing where I work, and after 6 months we can start selling the product we manufacture.

        Oh, wait, no we can't because the raw materials bit does work yet.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Before the RFP

      Problem is, as someone who's been there, seen that fail..

      An exec or someone higher up makes the decision that something is going to happen, nobody directly reporting to them will challenge it but those a tier down might and be knocked back or fired for doing so.

      I've seen this happen repeatedly because a chief exec etc decides to go with X system, a business case (which is biased) is created to support that decision, signed off by the board (includes the chief exec) and then look - due diligence has been done right?

      This would be fine if it weren't public money. I've been threatened with the sack for challenging bias in business cases or pointing out the flawed logic in supposed "savings" etc which never materialise.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    State employees paid for a month for doing nothing? They clearly need to learn from the Italians with the news this week of the state employee who was piad for 15 years despite only ever turning up on his first day (to give his bank account details I think) and was only discovered when someone was contacted to arrnage a presentation of his "long service award" which led to multiple reports of similar occurences.

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    Being paid to do nothing is not unusual for independent consultants

    I usually sign 3 or 6 month contracts, which may be renewed one or more times depending on the length of the project, but it doesn't always match up with the work. Most of the time I can find something useful to do like helping them interview candidates for permanent positions, improving documentation, or whatever, but occasionally in the last few weeks I'm paid to do nothing because they don't want me to start something I won't be able to finish.

    Once I was paid to sit around for an entire summer because their top guy quit to become a consultant and they panicked and offered me a 25% increase to sign on for another three months. But the two guys who took over for the guy who left didn't want me to do anything, they wanted to learn it all themselves and just ask me questions. Since I mostly had nothing to do (and it was the late 90s so the web was far less entertaining than today) I made more contributions to open source software that summer than all the rest of my life combined lol

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Being paid to do nothing is not unusual for independent consultants

      ... actually, wouldn't doing nothing "just because" be a justificaion that you aren't in IR35? (while helping contractee by interviewing candidates, improving documentation or whatever might be evidence that you were being "directed" and had weren't in independent control of how you worked!)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Being paid to do nothing is not unusual for independent consultants

        You don't think the Inland Revenue would regard 'being paid to sit around and do nothing' as prima-face evidence that you were a regular employee ?

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Being paid to do nothing is not unusual for independent consultants

        I live in the US so have never dealt with IR35 - though I once was paid to fly to Reading for a week to configure some storage arrays but I told customs I had flown to the UK for vacation. I learned that lesson after going to Canada for similar reasons a few years earlier and making the mistake of telling them it was "for work"!

        1. keith_w

          Re: Being paid to do nothing is not unusual for independent consultants

          Telling them that you are here for meetings works too. Otherwise it's where's your work permit or back on the plane with you. And that happens when visiting the US as well.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Being paid to do nothing is not unusual for independent consultants

            I remember being grilled once at the USA entering on an visa wiaver.

            Reason for visit?

            "Meetings"

            Are you sure you aren't going to be doing any work?

            "I'll be sitting in front of Powerpoints for a week while they explain a series of corporate reorganisations that have absolutely no effect on me. I promise you no work will ever be done"

            Welcome to the USA !

  4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Once Upon A Time In Zummoset

    The County Council decided to take on a bunch of contractors for deployments & other IT related tasks, that would be laid off at the start of the school holidays, to be rehired in September (This was a slight annoyance to me, but fitted in generally with my plans).

    In casually mentioning this to one of the permies & he having a degree of tenure flagged the flaw to the upper mangleworzles.

    The business plan for the summer is when we rip out complete suites of school IT (Icon) & you want to let the guys we spent 6 months getting familiar with everything go & have insufficient resources to deploy those suites?

    Do you have any assurances that they will come back in September as they will probably be looking for & find alternative employment elsewhere.

    Thus we found ourselves "back" on the usual round of 3-4 month contract renewals, before we had even left it.

  5. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Seems split accountability

    You need one person in charge and on point for a roasting and the sack when things go pearshaped. They must in recompense have the power to stop contracts and replace suppliers at will. This means the contracts need to be written differently with payment on delivery at least with proven tested and accepted features

  6. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Ummm...

    "the state changed the specification once the project had started. For example, it did not inform Workday of its need for a Labor Cost Distribution solution "until the configuration and prototype stage of the deployment.""

    Err... An RFC perhaps? A change request process? A programme change management and governance function?

    Sounds like all parties are at fault in this clusterf**k.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Ummm...

      Basic project management requires a process for change management and cost management.

  7. padamiak
    Holmes

    "significant gaps in configuration and testing, as well as best practices and methodology that had not been followed." Sadly this is the norm on most projects I have participated in over the last few years. It's like the PMs never ever learn from their mistakes...

  8. Danny Boyd

    I, to some extent, commiserate with the vendors in this case. Truly, "a giraffe is a white bunny built to the customer's requirements."

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    We released 15 independent contractors.

    What an odd way of phrasing it, as if they were all champing at the bit to leave you and go and get a job elsewhere...

    You terminated their contracts. You sacked them. Whether they were being paid silly money for doing nothing or not, 'we released' is just management bullshitspeak.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: We released 15 independent contractors.

      You need to do it in a Mr Burns voice: "Smithers, Release the consultants"

  10. Richard 51

    Got form

    It looks like the customer has form for incomplete hr projects. Usually there is blame on both sides in these situations. Client doesn't give clear requirements, supplier doesn't hold them to provide them, standard application "best practices" only work for the guys in the application developer team and not in real life. Clients also hate changing the way they have always done x and find any excuse to not simplify or improve their practices.

    Good luck Maine with your next attempt to implement HR and finance systems.

  11. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    "...the State's failure to provide clear direction to Workday..."

    So your Business Analysis team are useless then? It's their job to find out exactly what's required and document it, after all.

    Oddly enough all projects tend to go south when the BA process has been royally fucked up and an ambiguous sack of shite has been chucked into design.

    1. EarthDog

      Re: "...the State's failure to provide clear direction to Workday..."

      Here are your specs:

      1) replicate working features

      2) rip out unused or poorly function feature

      3) add a list of new features.

      You basically have a template or prototype to start with. You just have to ask the users what works and what doesn't. Ignore manglement.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why they got paid...

    A contract is a contract. If they were contracted for a fixed period of time for X a month then they get paid X a month for that period of time.

    It's not the fault of the contractors if work was suspended and there was fuck all to do.

  13. Aaiieeee
    Go

    Can someone tell me what I need to study re Workday so I can earn $100/h

    No really, I'll go do that. I'm a bright lad.

    1. herman Silver badge

      $100/h

      Study economics and statistics, then do stock trading and make way more than $100/h, for doing very little.

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