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Outsourcing limits innovation

The trend of IT being outsourced has the side effect of limiting the software and systems used to those sanctioned by the outsourcing company.

If you outsource so you lose control?

I say this with feeling as I've had an application of mine dismissed by a third party because possibly it might have some code unknown in it that could affect the servers or workstations it is installed upon.

No real reasons for this assertion were given.

Now I can understand them being wary of software being installed that they would be expected to support but as they weren't expected to support it that in itself shouldn't have mattered.

Then to have the non-client (since I was providing the software for free), suggest either that

1.  The third party develop the same software (having seen my application).

2.  They discover some off the shelf solution (not likely, hence my application)

3.  They get my source (for no cost) for them to 'modify' to solve whatever undefined instability the third party support co. imply they've found.

You might guess my response.

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 09, 2002

If your company outsourced "the works", then the requests of the contractor seem reasonable.
I am sure they would be happy to run your app if they can change their SLA to: "if things go down it is not our fault. Blame Simon Lucy". Not sure wether your management would sign this blank check though.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 09, 2002

No, its not my company.

It turns out they didn't bother evaluating the software at all.

And I'm happy to indemnify them and provide the support for the app.

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 09, 2002

The majority of work gets "outsourced".  Have you written an application to be run on Windows?  Then you've outsourced huge dependencies to platform DLL's, device drivers and possibly some services (hopefully ones you know about).

The only thing which should not be outsourced are the key technologies which your company depends upon to remain innovative.  If you're an insurance company, then you should be outsourcing _EVERYTHING_.  Technology is not a core competency for you, agents, pricing and brand are.  Additionally, if you outsource, you can obtain competetive bids from 3rd parties as new needs for contracts arise.  This will help your bottom line.

The only parts of the puzzle which you keep in house are those which are core competencies.  The rest you outsource.  It leverages the economies of scale and competition which give you a cheaper and better product.

Always has, always will.

anon
Monday, September 09, 2002

Ummm, no this is the Support that is outsourced which limits the innovation that this particular organisation can consider.

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 09, 2002

> It leverages the economies of scale and competition
> which give you a cheaper and better product.

Yuo're absolutely right about "cheap" part, but I don't agree with you on the "better", though.

As the saying goes, "you get what you pay for".

-----
Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favors your sword")
Paulo Caetano

Paulo Caetano
Monday, September 09, 2002

Mmmmm...  Would you buy a car from your in house "car development department" our would you go to a Toyota dealer?  Would you buy and have your carpets installed by your in house carpet department?  Would you bother having an in house carpet and office furniture department in the first place?  Not likely, unless you're a huge multinational corp with some specific advantage - but even that would/should be scrutinized.

>> Ummm, no this is the Support that is outsourced which limits the innovation that this particular organisation can consider.

So much more the argument that it should be outsourced.  Innovation gains are made in product deveopment, not support.  If support quality can be maintained by a 3rd party, then it should be done by a 3rd party.  Not only will it be cheaper, but it forces your development groups to document and explain what the product is.
  This always improves the product.

anon
Monday, September 09, 2002

I totally agree with anon. I actually think that outsourcing forces innovation.

When you clean your house, or do your own laundry, you tend to stick to the conventional. However Joe Bloggs Carpet Cleaners, and the White Linen Dry cleaners will have more incentive to R&D.

That is their business. We can get your linen whitest, using the latest in cleaning machines. We have invested £xxx in the latest carpet cleaning equipment.

I think what you should realise is that companies seek solutions. I want to print xxx pages per day. Whether the solution is an inhouse sourced battery of 10 machines or an outsourcer provided big jobbie will be decided on purely business grounds.

Your company is not in the business (I assume) of innovating in the software industry. As long as the solutions they have allow them to succeed in their business arena, then it does not really matter where it comes from.

If you want your application to be adopted, do not fight the battle on a technical front.... ... you will lose.

What you should do is say to your boss(es), "I need to do xyz as part of my day to day job", or "If I could do xyz on my computer, I would make you £xx more money". Only if they agree with your thinking will you be able to begin to make a case for your software ... ... "Outsourcer X will charge £xx over xx months to implement this feature. My solution is ready to roll out! While we are at it, how about a pay review!"

tapiwa
Monday, September 09, 2002

That's certainly a wonderful load of theorizing, but the one Universal Truth that's held throughout my experience is:

If the employees work for you, they care about maximizing profit for YOUR company.

If the employee doesn't work for you, they care about maximizing profit for THEIR company.

Dunno Wair
Monday, September 09, 2002

*Would you buy a car from your in house "car development *department"  blah blah blah

What you are forgetting is in software you are almost never "designing the car" you are customizing the steering weel, adding the seat covers and adding the fuzzy dice, i.e. most of the work is done for you by your OS, now some people find it more effecient to go to a 3rd party still, but writing or customizing software is not the same as buying a car.

Daniel Shchyokin
Monday, September 09, 2002

anon and tapiwa, you are way naive. The question should be: would you buy your own Toyota, or outsource your driving to a taxi company?

Outsourcing means a company gets the least useful service at the highest price the outsourcer's sales people can extract.

It means that every trivial requirement that once would have taken five minutes will now attract extra fees to the highest extent the outsourcer can extract, which means the customer will forgo all innovative and unforeseen services and activity.

driver
Monday, September 09, 2002

Dunno, the very reason you give: "they care about maximizing profits for their company", is the reason that outsourcing forces innovation.

If you just give an outsourcing contract to your brother's best friend, don't expect much, but done right, outsourcing creates industries that would otherwise not exist.

Come bidding time, unless a company has innovated, unless they have found ways of lowering costs, they  will not be able to offer you the best value. Result, you go to the best value supplier.

Note, best value, not lowest cost.

Like others have said in this URL, management is about minimising uncertainty. If I contract with you to clean my offices to a set standard, for a year, then I can run with that figure.

You meet the SLA, and you get paid. You are happy, I am happy.

Whether you invest in R&D, and create some robot that automates the process, or you hire imates, that business decision you make. If you make 50% margins on your business, then again kudos to you.

All I think about is that my company extracted the best deal possible, and having someone else clean, means I don't have to deal with personnel, admin ("We just ran out of detergent sir"), and all the other hassles that at the end of the day do not really add value to the business...

tapiwa
Monday, September 09, 2002

tapiwa explained it very well.  These are general rules that pertain to Wall Mart as well as IT.  If the process, task, device, etc. is not where you have a competetive advantage or its not a core competency (hopefully they intersect), then you should (must) shop it out.  This is why fabless semiconductor houses can compete against Intel and IBM.

On another note, I have never met an IT department I liked.  In house IT departments seem genetically predisposed to maximize one goal: empire building.  It seems to be the currency by which IT depatments are judged - how many people, how many machines.  Not how effective.

anon
Monday, September 09, 2002

Whatever it is your company does, why do your customers buy from you? Because you can do it better than they can I assume. If you aren't selling it or planning to sell it, why do you care about getting good at it? If you are so sure you can do it better and cheaper than those you source from, and you want to do it, then consider getting into the business, no?

I think it does pay to pick carefully though - having inmates clean your offices after midnight sounds less than optimal. Might be a bit more cleaned out than you hoped ; ).

Robin Debreuil
Monday, September 09, 2002

In this case the problem is that the outsourcing agreement seems to favoring the vendor not the company. If the outsourcer can refuse to support any thing without a reason they will because it is easier for them. And it could lead to more revenue.

Simon should complaint to the users he is selling the the app to they are the ones that should change the situation.

John McQuilling
Monday, September 09, 2002

I could honestly think that advising someone not to install a homemade unknown into their system being good advice though, even if I wasn't doing the support. The fact that they were willing to go over the source means to me that they aren't that inflexible. Maybe they keep track of specific system dll's for example, and want to be sure the app isn't 'upgrading' key ones. Lots can happen with a random install into a stable system - maybe once .net's xcopy is a reality that can change.

I know I used to work with networks in banks, and the biggest headache we ever had was when a supplier opted for a shareware auto-dialup networking package to transfer data at night. Hundreds of hours lost, it was by far the worst tech problem we had there. After that we were pretty wary of shareware - I'm sure we overlooked some reasonable solutions, or over paid for others, but what can you do... In spite of the crap that sometimes comes in shrinkwrap, it is generally safer than shareware or unknownware. I'm sure that is different in this case, but how do they know.

Robin Debreuil
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Robin, the issue isn't whether it's good network management practice to restrict new products. The issue is whether having an external company running this according to rigid rules limits innovation. The answer is that it does.

driver
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

If this were 'homemade' software in the sense that I'm some amateur (which was their implication), then I would understand it.

I've seen all sorts of IT organisations, outsourced, internal but centralised, informal and localised.

In almost all cases the users were happiest with the informal and localised.  In the end there is very little difference between an external supplier providing support and an internal but centralised department.

Now the informal and localised might be a little ragged around the edges but it has the advantage of understanding the local users.

As part of all the rationalisation and restructuring of businesses in the 80's the impetus was to concentrate on core business with the result that lots of what was thought of as peripheral service activities to the business were considered ideal targets for outsourcing.

Facilities management, catering and of course IT.

I'm not at all sure that that was a positive change in terms of quality.

Now you can make all sorts of claims for the marketplace increasing quality because its part of the profit incentive.  Unfortunately, the people that can truly measure the quality of a service are hardly ever the ones responsible for managing the outsourcing.

The competition for such outsourcing is never about quality when it comes down to it, its about cost.  Because the organisation has stopped valuing whatever the service is (because its no longer a part of the organisation), the cost has become more important than the contribution that a quality internal service (which is almost entirely non-quantifiable) makes to the organisation.

In lots of old fashioned organisations the tea lady is an important mechanism for distributing good or bad morale.

An external caterer can never fulfill that function.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Sure, but I read the proof to be 'they have a rigid rule that they they restrict unproven homemade products from the network'. I thought it wasn't a bad rule, regardless of whether it came from the inside or the out, so I though it was a weak 'proof'. Could be the point wooshed by me though, that happens a lot... Sorry if it did.

Robin Debreuil
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Outsourcing has its place, but for non-commodity functions the outsourcing should never be 100%. With 100% I mean there is no IT knowledge left in the company.
These are the worst to come across. Invariably the company is being seriously overcharged and underserviced for even the most trivial stuff. The customer usually doesn't even know this, or when they do have become so dependent on the outsource parasites that hey can not cut loose. Competent QA of the IT service should always remain within the company.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

It is a reasonable rule, but they didn't put it through any reasonable acceptance test (which is what they were requested to do as part of the RFC procedure), or produce any evidence for their assertions.

Part of the problem is that they weren't part of defining the scope, the solution or the delivery, it was also represented to them as being developed internally (which no one including the department was aware of), so I can understand the attitude a little more.

Which was my real point about outsourcing limiting innovation, because they weren't part of the development their own risk management constrains what they will do sometimes to the detriment of _their_ customer.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"The competition for such outsourcing is never about quality when it comes down to it, its about cost."

It's about efficiency. I don't know how anyone who's ever tasted wonder bread can think its about quality. There isn't a direct relation between quality and profit, and not even with cost or happiness and profit, but there is with efficiency.

Robin Debreuil
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"Competent QA of the IT service should always remain within the company. "

Absolutely, which is one of the problems this particular organisation has.

The departmental users can't fix that, the external company is quite happy for it to continue and the upper management just want the cost controlled.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

I will say though, if they have someone like you on staff, then it is a bit dumb to be 100% beholden to the outside. Outsourcing IT makes more sense for non-IT companies. I can't imagine a group of reasonable programmers who can't keep their network clean and running. Also it sounds like programming is at least a core competnecy for you, so they are paying salaries for that already, why not leverage it or lay you off. That's just a guess though, I have no idea even what your comapany does...

My experience is more like a bank, where the banking IT is outside at 'central', and they also outsource IT service, to keep the computers going. Their core businesss is selling loans and mutual funds, along with being a human iterface to the machine... For them it make no sense to have an in house IT staff - the networks and configurations are nothing fancy and meant to stay that way.

You do have my sympathy btw, if that helps anything.

Robin Debreuil
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"I totally agree with anon. I actually think that outsourcing forces innovation."

Yes Tapiwa, you are correct. But it's innovation to find ways of maximising THEIR profits or minimising THEIR costs for providing the service. They'll do enough to keep your business, sure, and in a competetive space with lots of alternate suppliers for the outsourced product or resource that might mean they'll do a lot, but never lose sight of the fact that if you hire a company to do something for you that company is in business to make money for itself, not you.

Robert Moir
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"I will say though, if they have someone like you on staff, then it is a bit dumb to be 100% beholden to the outside. "

No, I'm not on staff :-).  That was some misinterpretation by the person that wrote the RFC.  My wife actually came to me with the requirement and I gave a solution which we worked on till it did what the department wanted.

All because the organisation failed to come up with anything first.

I grant you if I were on staff, it would be different.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

One of the themes I almost see running through this discussion is that profit is bad. <<buzzer>>. Profit is good.

There is only so much that prices can fall. In any given industry, people will compete on features. Result innovation. At some point, the focus becomes price, especially for mature industries where the product offerings from the different players are the same. This status quo is maintained for a while, until someone applies some technological advancement (new or old, possibly from a totally unrelated field) to shake the industry back into innovation.

Lets go back to the cleaners. They are there to make money. Period. Anything else they do is to help them achieve this goal. Forget about the profit for now type business we have seen in recent times. Sustainable profitability comes from being able to service your clients needs.

As a cleaning firm, there is only so much you can charge for cleaning per square foot. Given that you cannot reasonably lower your costs below a certain level, you would then need to derive find other areas you can add value, and be more competitive. Work with your client. You might discover that one of their biggest problems is dirty carpets, but that the best cleaning agent causes so much static Ben Franklin would be proud!

Result. You try and solve their problem. You might develop and use a cleaning agent that cleans, and is an antistatic as well. You might deal with the static by releasing an anti static continously through the air con system. You might suggest a synthetic easy-to-clean and non-static carpet altenative. Really anal examples, but I hope you get the drift.

Only by seeking to maximize its own profit, will the contractor seek to totally understand and solve your problem, and therefore be able to charge you good/decent/above average money.

Conversely, only by seeking to maximize your own company's profit will you be rigorous in your search for an outsourcing partner, and seek to get the best value out of the deal!

tapiwa
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

These chaps say it more eloquently and succintly than I can

Any business arrangement that is not profitable to the other person will in the end prove unprofitable for you. The bargain that yields mutual satisfaction is the only one that is apt to be repeated.
- B. C. Forbes

If you mean to profit, learn to please.
- Winston Churchill

The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit.
- Samuel Gompers

.:Conversely:.

As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it.
- Dick Cavett

tapiwa
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Ummm, most cleaning companies aren't setup to research problems, they hire labour out.  They control their costs by controlling wages and restricting supplies to the minimum.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

tapiwa, what you say makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, it makes perfect sense only in print.

When it comes to the "real world", at least as far as the examples I know, what matters is cost, and "quality of service" is something everyone pays lip service to, but seldom is anyone willing to bother about it.

Besides, most organizations are not as imaginative as you make them. Their main goal is to lower price, period. And they do it because that's about the only thing most of their customers care about.

Now, ain't this a nice little merry-go-round? ;)

-----
Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favors your sword")
Paulo Caetano

Paulo Caetano
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

tapiwa, you continue to display breathtaking naivity. The yakuza, triads and tobacco companies are all profitable. That says nothing about their worth. A few more names too - Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen.

I suspect you have never acually been in the workforce tapiwa.

driver
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"driver",

tapiwa provided a rational and well thought out presnetation of his thoughts.  You on the other hand resort to insults.  I guess that's all you have left.

... on Software Anon: a 12 step program
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

On the contrary, software anon, tapiwa's statements were not well thought out and were not well oriented to the discussion.

driver
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"tapiwa, you continue to display breathtaking naivity. The yakuza, triads and tobacco companies are all profitable. That says nothing about their worth. A few more names too - Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen."

I do think tapiwa's arguments are only one side of the story, but I'd like to point out that quoting those examples doesn't necessarily invalidate the argument. He wasn't talking about the "worth" of a company, he was talking about innovation and profit. The yakuza, triads and tobacco companies presumably are "successful" because they innovate, work with their "clients" to foster new types of business relationship, etc.

However, I admit I'm taking a very broad view of innovation here, encompassing bribery, intimidation, marketing dangerous products to the young, defrauding shareholders, etc. Whether these are good long-term strategies is a discussion for another day.

Adrian Gilby
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

_The apology of Tapiwa_

Driver wrote. "tapiwa, you continue to display breathtaking naivity. The yakuza, triads and tobacco companies are all profitable. That says nothing about their worth. A few more names too - Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen.

I suspect you have never acually been in the workforce tapiwa. "

Where to begin... ...

Tobacco firms are in the business of nicotine delivery. Do they do it well? Yes. Are there adverse side effects to smoking? Yes. Are the tobacco firms profitable? Yes. Whether you may or may not think that the firms are evil is besides the point. These guys fill a need. Look at how the industry has grown from roll-em-ups to today, where you can get lights, super lights, super strong, nicotine-free cigarettes, menthols, slims. All this 'innovation' has been an attempt to get more people smoking and thus make more money.

Yakuza ... The Weekend Financial Times from this last weekend has an article on how the Yakuza seems to be the most innovative of all Japanes firms. It talks about how they have downsized, and cut off the deadwood. The smaller groups have merged, and aligned themselves to larger umbrella bodies. One of the mini-bosses says while profits are smaller, they are stable. At the same time they have expanded their businesses into other areas. From extortion, they are moving into Sex Shops and Gambling Dens. Gangland killings are fewer and fewer. Ostentatious displays of wealth no longer found. The Yakuza is gaining more popularity with the masses. In short, the Yakuza are proving themselve more capable of innovating and adopting to the current market environment, than the rest of Japanese Industry.

Don't know anything about the triad, so can't comment.

Enron and Worldcom failed to make a profit. That was their problem. They tried to get into sexy industries (Energy trading). Tried to grow revenues at all costs (WorldCom). What they failed to do was deliver a product that their customer was willing to buy at a price higher than its cost.

AA was in the same boat. The ultimate clients of an auditing firm are a firm's suppliers, its shareholders, its employees. Yes, I know about the conflicts, about the income from consulting, but when an accounting firm loses that illusion of independence/objectiveness/truthfullness, then no one will want to higher them. Managers want to be able to stand up in front of their shareholders, and say that these are the figures, and the best minds in Auditing have checked them and agree with us. No one would want to hire Anderson as long as they are tainted with this "1+1 equals whatever you pay us to say it is!" image.

While I am young, I do not think myself naive or ignorant of the workings of business.

I am not one to name names, but I have worked in several companies, in three different countries, including a stint with the finest management consultancy firm, one of the biggest financial institutions in the country, and a profit making subsidiary of a government agency. I have worked in the family business, including founding and growing the financial services division.

In short, disagree with my opinion if you must... Like someone once said, "If two people always agree, then one of them is not necessary." What I would hope for is a point by point rebutal of the main arguement that I am making, which is that the quest for higher profit is one of the main drivers of innovation in any industry.

Extracting value from outsourcing relationships, whether by encouraging innovation (work with us to solve our problems), or by demanding lower prices for generic services (how low can you go) becomes a test of our abilities as management.

tapiwa
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I think another misconception is that there is a lot of in house innovation happening that is somehow being supressed. If you think outside companies are reluctant to innovate, how about inside employees doing tasks outside thier core skill with no real competition or incentive...

What I'm most confused about though, now that I've re-read things and been corrected, is that Simon is actually outside the company in this case. So then I don't get it - if a company isn't supposed to outsource, they would have rejected his work for that reason alone...? I'm not sure of the point, don't limit who you outsource from? If you are contracted to take care of an air-control system, you can't veto air-conditioners or filters that have unknown dust ratings? Or is it because the program was offered for free that it isn't outsourcing..?

Robin Debreuil
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

No the point was that the organisation has a contract with a company providing their IT support.

That third party, the outsourced company, is effectively restricting the organisation from innovating, or at least that can be the result.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

But then isn't that an example of how going to an outside specialized company can be more innovative than doing things in house (other than you aren't charging them in this case)? Couldn't you assume that outsourcing IT would give you similar benefits? (regardless of the idea that they may have hired a dud company in this case).

Robin Debreuil
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Actually I think outsourced IT in particular always tends to limit innovation and internal control, unless as you've said you have strong management.  But then if you have strong management, why outsource?

Outsourced support is never at the point of need, its always a polled resource and a resource constrained by factors determined by the supplier more than the consumer. 

Even if it isn't outsourced (he says doing a double shuffle), IT support tends to be centralised which makes it inefficient for users.

Which is why in practice I've seen more satisfaction in organisations where they've grown their own support within their own departments.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A friend of mine was relating to me what happened when his company outsourced their training to a very well known firm of consultants.

Said friend's company makes IT equipment that requires complex installation and maintenance. To begin with, the training team was in-house. Everyone was happy. But it was decreed that in-house training cost too much. Thus, it was outsourced.

Results:

- The people doing the training know the theory behind the equipment, but have never actually performed an installation. They are unable to answer any "real-life-situation" questions.
- It's difficult to reach the consultant who's supposed to be responsible for handling the training programmes.
- Business partners and other "outside" people find it _very_ difficult to even find out what training is available. They're crying out to be trained, but the new online booking form requires that you register before you can even see what courses are on offer, and even when you're registered it's a hassle to book courses etc.

I don't see much innovation here. I see short-term savings but long-term losses. In the long run, there will be fewer people who know how to use the equipment, fewer partners willing to work with the company, fewer people trained, fewer projects, fewer profits...

Anonymous this time
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

tapiwa and others, I mention tobacco companies, the yakuza and triads as illustrations that your primary criterion, profitability, can not be considered in isolation as a measure of fitness for purpose. That is, of how well the quest for profits benefits customers.

The customers of tobacco companies, the yakuza and triads do not benefit from their profit-seeking behaviour.

I mention Worldcom, Andersen and Enron as illustrations that enterprises ruthlessly chasing "profitability," and being feted for doing so successfully by the business community, can actually be failing at that dismally. We all know now that these companies were crooked, but it's not so long ago they were hailed as heros by the business community. Again, this comes at a large cost to substantial parts of the community, including their customers.

So I would put it to you that the profit-seeking rationale behind outsourcing is not, as you maintain, a valid indicator of whether benefits actually flow to customers from outsourcing.

driver
Friday, September 13, 2002

Robin, outsourcing in the sense Simon mentioned it is the process where a significant part of an organisation's IT functions are provided by one of a handful of well-known large, aggressive firms, and also where that provision is subject to very strict contractual relationships. We're not referring generically to the process of using external consultants.

The theory behind outsourcing is that the tight contractual relationships ensure the customer gets good value for money. The reality is that outsourcing companies are skilled at maximising their profit at the customer's expense.

Real world examples of problems include people being restricted from changing the paper in printers to make occasional A3 prints (A3 is not in the contract, customer not allowed to perform any maintenance on printers), printers being out of actions for days due to a paper jam ( customer not allowed to perform maintenance, outsourcer hasn't hired enough support people), people have to wait on phone 30 minutes for support ( executives have priority number ) and office computers replaced by bottom-of-the range machines that "met the spec" ( executives retain their brand-name machines.)

driver
Friday, September 13, 2002

Another real world example, which my wife has just related after having seen this.

They aren't allowed to change the toner in their own printers, they have to wait for one of the on site people (employees of the Support provider) to come down and do it for them.

This can take anything from half an hour to a day to happen, and if it extends over half an hour its means that its had to be chased by someone in the department.

Now, you can say thats a deficiency of the contract and the relationship and that it should have been forseen.  This is true, but even if this irritation had been seen and catered for, or managed when it first arose there'd be another, equally trivial, equally annoying wrinkle that the supplier would use.

Simon Lucy
Saturday, September 14, 2002

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