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Accenture sued over website redesign so bad it Hertz (theregister.co.uk)
218 points by tomduncalf on April 24, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments

People are talking about building in-house talent. I was part of the in-house talent at Hertz. We were executing the strategic initiatives (at some level we came up with them), and we were doing a damn fine job at it.

In early 2016, they fired us all. We were made to train up our replacements (at IBM in India) in order to receive severance packages. Later we found out that Accenture had picked up the initiative. And now the world knows the rest of the story.

All the points made here (ie warning signs, organic initiative) were passionately made at the time to Hertz brass. But someone, no doubt on a golf course somewhere, sold them the idea that they can save millions on paper. And, on paper, they were right: Shortly after firing us all, the CIO received a $7 million bonus. Unfortunately for everyone involved (except the CIO, of course), paper doesn't reflect reality.

Profit, short term thinking, incompetence. This triplet is so common that seems to be part of a major study that lots of execs have properly mastered.

Is there anywhere some study/statistics that shows the impact of those 3 elements together? Because I am quite sure it's extremely common, or I just stumble upon such cases really frequently....

Why should they worry about it? CxO are rarely held accountable for their missteps by the board.

Maybe this time it didn't go out unnoticed because someone actually tried to use their website and got pissed off it didn't work

He was eventually pushed out, last summer. But it's not like he had to give his $7 million back.

What's that like? 3 managers and 12 developers/analysts?

> CxO are rarely held accountable for their missteps by the board.

Why is that?

Because the company that decides to punish their CxO will have a hard time finding one. People job hunting at that level want a guaranteed golden parachute, whether things go well or not. And the board agrees to pick one of these guys up because that person will implement all the shitty decisions while leaving the board with clean hands. Everybody (who's high enough) wins because they all get their paychecks and bonuses by the time the cookie crumbles. And when it does you can blame the "dead guy", the same CxO that already took off with the golden parachute and is off to another company to do the same thing.

I know a few of these people, moving around in similar positions in every company. They are brought in as hatchet men, with full knowledge that it will be a fiasco. But before this becomes obvious everybody gets to tout cost savings, optimizations, etc. to get their bonuses. Then the person is paid handsomely to leave and take all the blame with them. Their LinkedIn profiles are chock full of 12-24 month stints at all kinds of companies with "successful" projects... until you ask someone involved with those projects.

I think that people who leave when the CEO is replaced are looked down upon for that. However, I think it's a reasonable fear due to this.

We should name and shame those who do that. It's a short term success for long term damage. (It's going to take a long time for Hertz to recover from this, and I can't imagine their lawsuit is going to be too successful [they still need a new site])

For me generally, it's execs that come from Cisco or GE tend to do this kind of thing.

I wonder what a stock portfolio based on shorting companies who sign contracts with IBM India, Accenture, Wipro, etc. for outsourcing would look like in terms of performance. Probably too much of a leading indicator to be truly useful.

Someone has probably made a handsome profit of this idea

Reading Bad Blood has made me lose all faith in executives.

I work for a fairly large corporation that was looking at Accenture (among other firms) to help augment our team on a complete revamp of a current web product. By the time we were taking RFP's and listening to pitches, we as a company had already chosen the stack and architecture of how we wanted this new product to be. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary: Typescript with React / Redux with various services hosted on AWS.

All the firms we spoke to were onboard with this and continued on with their proposals except Accenture. One of their lead devs was extremely combative and trying to tell us that going with Angular was a much better idea / React is a failure. On top of this, they kept pitching that they were going to rewrite all the backend services, which was not part of the RFP or even brought up as something wanted.

It really felt like they already had a generic turnkey product in place and wanted to sell us that instead.

They do. All the code they would have "Written" would have been done by offshoring teams in india or mexico or etc. These offshore locations only know specific technologies. A specific building in India, for example, may only know how to write WCF code that gets data from a SOAP call. Their Mexico building may genuinely only know how to write WPF applications.

To be clear, this isn't a knock against Mexican or Indian people. But the people working in these accenture buildings are literally writing code using windows notepad, in un-airconditioned rooms, and fired if they don't deliver on time.

They then, obviously, write buggy code, which Accenture then offers to fix to the client for an additional fee. They used to have onshore American developers responsible for being the white/professional face to the client, but they've since dropped that as well, and now only hire on a management level for that role.

The crazy thing is IBM consulting is worse. I've been forced to work with IBM .Net Consultants who didn't know what visual studio was. Not how to use it, but literally didn't know what it was. And when shown what it was, couldn't figure out how to start the installation process. Again, not install the whole thing, couldn't figure out how to double click Setup.exe.

The very best though, was a small consulting company that was competing against my Accenture project back at the time. He was, of course, also an Indian outsourcing company. But he came with the additional twist that everyone he hired as a developer was a woman from India, and was only on-site in the USA on temporary work permit. He was the only man. So if they didn't do exactly what he said, he would kick them out of the country, and send them back to India. No potential for gross abuse there.

There are great offhsoring companies, but they don't work for offshoring rates. I now firmly believe that if your company is seriously looking at offshoring their technology for cost savings, it is not a competent technology company already.

>To be clear, this isn't a knock against Mexican or Indian people. But the people working in these accenture buildings are literally writing code using windows notepad, in un-airconditioned rooms, and fired if they don't deliver on time.

I just stopped reading after this. You are full of yourself.

I had the chance to work with a team in Accenture Mexico, and they offices are nothing but great, just look at the pictures:


Your entire comment is just a bunch of lies, not sure what you are trying to accomplish.

I'm not defending Accenture over this lawsuit, but it seems that you bring so much hate with that comment.

I left Accenture upset by a number of the practices that I saw, even though I largely worked with very good people.

I also was definitely overreacting when I wrote the above, as I am currently dealing with an issue with an overseas contracting team at the moment, and used the above comment to blow off some steam. I apologize for the vitriol.

Monte Ray is the new facility they were building when I left. I'm happy to hear it might actually be a good building.

When I left, it was explained to me that on Monday mornings, many of the Mexican development team were driven via school bus over the border to work in the SouthWest, and that as a result, American hiring was going to be at least temporarily frozen, and that they would be responsible solely for WPF applications.

The line about un-airconditioned buildings and notepad is how the office we were working with in India was described to me by the manager in charge of that team on my project.

I thought, given the similarities of those two stories, that conditions would therefore be similar to the Mexican office.

I apologize for the mistake, and am happy to hear that I am wrong. Apologies for the incorrect comment.

> The line about un-airconditioned buildings and notepad is how the office we were working with in India was described to me by the manager in charge of that team on my project.

I worked in Bangalore in 2005, (the city with the best weather among cities with tech offshoring offices). Even Bangalore had airconditioned offices.

Second-hand bullshit is still bullshit.

1. That's a social media account, those tend to be curated.

2. It's an open office environment with very little desk space. Most of the in-office pictures are stuff on desks.

Fine, have it your way. They work in great offices with healthy living conditions. The code they deliver is still buggy and deficient

Are you seriously trying to prove the expertise of Accenture Mexico by posting a link to Foursquare?

As someone who worked as a dev for Accenture I can tell you you're absolutely correct. When I was there we basically sold solutions based on what products we already had. I worked on some of our platforms that went on to be sold to various clients.

We were largely a VS/Java shop when I was there then we started to invest more in Angular, so that's probably why they fought so hard to convince you.

This is why you need to develop in-house talent for execution of strategic initiatives. The consultants are very useful for helping formulate strategy and they are worth the money. But implementation has to be done by the organization itself as the knowledge and network required to implement an initiative is deeply organic.

Once the management had settled on a strategic direction, they should have hired key executives , managers and architects and developers. They should have then supplemented this taskforce with contractors or even outsourcing companies.

Let Accenture own the whole initiative from soup-to-nuts was dumb. Fire that CIO!


All they wanted was a mobile-first website.

Did that really require a $32 million investment? An in-house team could've handled that for less, with more trust involved.

Focus on hiring good people!

$32m isn't crazy for a redesign of a large ecommerce site. Consider the needs right out of the box:

* multi-language and accessible

* desktop, tablet, mobile -- doing this well requires pretty good design chops and a lot of testing

* handles money and credit cards, so requires PCI compliance -- there's little chance they're going to move to something like Stripe at their scale

* probably connects to a godawful homegrown inventory system

* very high uptime requirements

* integration with their analytics chain, to provide highly complex ad reporting and conversion optimization flows

* an administration UI that functions both at the global level and at the store level with complex permissions and reporting given the various management chains involved

Considering even a mid-tier dev costs order $200k fully loaded, a small front-end scrum team of 5 front end eng, a designer, and a PM runs you $1.4/year; a backend team of 10 also with a PM runs $2.5m. That's $8m over 2 years for a pretty small team and not super-expensive talent. I'd initially spec the Hertz site as over $20m to build. And that cost could easily rise.

All that.

I've told people who scoff at $32 million "for a website" that $32 million might actually be low, depending on requirements.

> This is why you need to develop in-house talent for execution of strategic initiatives.

Sorry but I've seen "in-house" code and it's utter shit as well. I work as an outsourcing developer from a Consultancy agency, and all the management is done by the client.

So, even if the code is all "in-house" that's not enought to build quality code.

This is why you outsource; the executive that decided to use Accenture is most likely safe despite the failure.

Nobody got fired for hiring Microsoft or IBM for a project. The person who gets fired is the executive that says "we can do this in house" and comes up at 90-110% but stepped on the wrong board member's toes.

I actually did the exact opposite but I hedged my bets. Accenture was awarded a 40 million dollar by Marriott. At the time I was a fairly powerful executive at Marriott that was in charge of the web middle-ware and infrastructure technologies. They delivered a plan and it was pretty much we are going to build this whole thing on JSP, Struts and WebSphere. I wrote a manifesto to the board about how doing so was setting us back years in development as the world has moved on from these technologies to front end, and back end web technologies.

So I remember they had a program manager from the middle east and he tried every underhanded trick to undermine my credibility. So I buffered myself by hiring a small crew of IBM's Solutions Services and borrowing the top UI designer from Apple on a consultancy basis, these guys are not global services but rather very high end DE's from IBM such as Roland Barcia and Mathew Perrins. Anyways we built a point by point rebuttal against all of Accentures proposals and how we could not achieve our goals using old page-post model that they where proposing.

So anyways, Accenture is arguing that JS based front end technologies are not mature, rest is not proven, etc, etc.

Anyways so we are in the board, meeting with the CTO, CIO and CFO from Marriott as well as my direct line president who is totally on my side. And this program manager starts going on and on about this (it was basically them covering for the fact that they had nothing but sub par Java talent in their org.). So while he is going on and on, I start walking around the table and start dropping packets in front of all my execs. Then I start dropping them in front of the Accenture top brass finally the program manager. The packet contained a Gartner research article from Accenture's CTO about how enterprises that fail to adopt disconnected JS and mobile UI's based on components communicating with legacy enterprise systems via rest ran the risk of becoming outdated and increase technical debt.

Anyway, program manager lost his shit, and came over the table at me. Accenture was escorted out the door, I was asked to provide a budget and a resource plan for implementing it in house. I went to my program manager, and two of my contracting outfits about scaling resource and we came up with a conservative figure of around 7 million, and a 1 year time-frame. We finished in 8 months, at 4.5 million total spend.

TLDR - I saved Marriott 35 million dollars by getting rid of Accenture, did it in house, was attacked by an Accenture personnel and was asked to consider the interim CTO position due to the overwhelming success. I resigned 2 months after the project was finished and went back to remote development, I have never considered a executive or CTO position again after that and other experiences as a CTO with other orgs.

This mirrors my own experience from within accenture about a decade ago. There were serious professionalism issues, not to mention the pm nightmare shoved on devs.

So what backend did you standardize on?

Java rest services. At the time we had heavy investment in Java talent and there was no reason to retrain a large group of in-house developers when they already had to learn a host of new technologies to adapt to the changing landscape of the web UI and mobile.

Aaah, great justice porn!

Thank you. Great story.

Great story, thanks

You use Accenture to supplement your team. You never give them the whole project, especially IT and design projects.

80% of the blame lies with Hertz management. It's professional negligence and mismanagement.

Most likely, they were probably advised against the decision. Even if they weren't, there likely were plenty of warning signs along the way.

Well the reality is that this setup is even more expensive than internal talent! I have hired and manage a team of 5 people for data analytics work. Our IT keeps pushing us to user offshore resources at hourly rates instead (Capgemini, same crap as Accenture) that would end up costing the company 2-3 times more then our internal analysts. On top of that these people are not well trained, lack motivation, do mistakes everywhere and somehow always put the fault of all problems back to you, because you did not test well or not write all requirements etc.. I am saving the compay hundreds of thousands, I could save millions but I just can’t fight this all political mess alone. The interesting point is that my analysts do work in an offshore location, but we pay them well and we spend a lot of time training them on sound technologies, not the crap consulting comes up with. Also we kid ourselves thinking projects end, in real life projects become routine work so hiring people on project basis does not work, you pay them a temp work premium but it’s not temp work.

Hire me. I consult in exactly this field. I will charge an exorbitant rate (you know, to show I'm qualified) and come tell your leadership that they're wrong.

This is a service I'm very happy to offer!

I will be honest to admit, before I read this article, I didn't even know charging $32 million was possible for a website.

Brace for impact.


"The federal government’s Obamacare enrollment system has cost about $2.1 billion so far, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis of contracts related to the project."

That had senators intentionally shoving bits of the system into their state. They wanted more money flowing to the state, so larger numbers were a plus from their perspective.

They got to blame any failure on Obama, so why not I guess.

The thing is it's not just a website. Calling it that just made a better headline.

The website was a big part of it, but it was a lot more than that. The actual scope is roughly outlined in the article.

I worked at a startup that operated for over five years with a similar amount of funding. We had a web app, webpage, native mobile apps on both platforms, marketing, customer service, sales, and our own office that was pretty dope. We had something like 75 employees at the peak. I can't believe it either.

Super possible, but it's based on smoke and mirrors "scaled agile" and building stuff you don't really need.

Only really the big guys get away with it though.

Depends what website means - could be one html page or amazon.com level. It’s still a load of cash, mind

Bill more next time.

And some how that massive number didn't even include training costs, because the website never went live!

This suggests so much that it is so important to choose the right partners for the job. Accenture has certainly made mistakes and I would presume that Hertz has a long contract to use Accenture as an outsourcing provider, so it may well not have been an option to use anyone else. But, what a farce.

Everyone has the ability to make mistakes, but you probably wouldn't hire a plumber to change your electrics. And I would think that the chances are that the actual work is being completed by people who have little understanding of the job they are supposed to be completing (and it appears maybe even the tools they are supposed to be using).

The extra frustrating things are that I am sure this will be used by people to suggest at why software projects fail; whereas, it is probably more symptomatic of a string of errors over project planning and understanding.

I used to work for an "orange" company close to Accenture, I left for these exact reasons

Don’t hire a consulting firm to do development work because they will just hire it out to a shitty firm in India and charge an exorbitant premium

> And then in what may be the ultimate management consulting logic, Accenture apparently told Hertz that to speed up the production of the website's content management system, it wanted to use something called "RAPID" – and told Hertz it would have to buy licenses for it to do so. Hertz bought the licenses, however, it turned out that Accenture didn't actually know how to use the technology and the quick-fix took longer than it would have done without it.

Anyone know about what they're talking about?

I don't get the headline. "Accenture sued over website redesign so bad it Hertz".

Are they trying to use Hertz instead of hurt??

It's the register, it's their habits of using tabloid-style headlines with those kind of jokes and puns, even if the content is not (always) outrageous. Personally when I submit a story from there, I'll transform the title to a "normal" headline, which is more readable and in-line with the expectation here; also many titles are too long for the HN title limit, so I have to do it anyway.

It's what we in the industry call a "pun", or a "play on words".

Hertz is a car rental company in North America that hired Accenture to redesign their website. The redesign was bad so Hertz broke off the contract and sued Accenture.

Yup. Headline writers just love the puns.


An amazing bit of context here is that Accenture were the ones who got hired to replace the incompetent contractors who built the disastrous first version of healthcare.gov. Apparently large-scale web development projects have a hard time getting good talent.

>Apparently large-scale web development projects have a hard time getting good talent.

... for acceptable wages. That's the kicker.

Good talent doesn't sign up for large-scale web projects at $20k/year.

On the bright side, this is a hard lesson to those who seek the hype of digital transformation without actually knowing it's about people mindset and skill before software and fancy technology!

The only times I even hear the words "digital transformation" is in management-focused publications like HBR or in marketing literature from shops that CRM implementations. Even though HBR articles are sometimes written by technical people, the words themselves tend to be buzzword soup.

I feel like they're speaking to a non-technical upper management audience. Surely someone familiar with managing IT projects would see those words and run for the hills.

I’m surprised by reading this. I worked at The Coca-Cola Company in downtown Atlanta for a few years. What I watched TCCC do to outsiders just boggled my mind. It seems that everyone is jumping on Accenture. I have no love for Accenture. I’ve heard lots of bad about them from before this story. Because I worked at TCCC. I can only imagine the hell that Hertz put them through. This was a five year project trying to get jammed into 15 months. I got the feeling from reading the complaint that the hertz people knew what was being asked for and they didn’t share that with anyone from Accenture. There are rules for successful software development. Hertz violated plenty of them and got what they deserved.

I'm guessing the comps were shit.

Accenture depends heavily on its army of outsourced smaller firms with junior remote staff. No surprise here.

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