- National Grid provided a scathing description of Wipro’s consulting resources and consulting management.
- We review this description for accuracy.
Text Introduction (Read or See Video Intro Below)
When National Grid sued Wipro for failure around $1 billion of SAP implementation, National Grid made some accusations about Wipro’s consultant quality in their legal filings. These accusations are fairly typical of the poor quality of the information provided by consulting firms. You will see some of the tactics that Indian IT consulting companies engage in and the complete incompetence on the part of SAP customers in checking the false claims of consulting firms from this case study.
Video Introduction: National Grid’s Explanation of Wipro’s Consultant Quality
Our References for This Article
If you want to see our references for this article and other related Brightwork articles, see this link.
Lack of Financial Bias Notice: We have no financial ties to SAP or any other entity mentioned in this article.
Lack of Financial Bias Notice: We have no financial ties to SAP or any other entity mentioned in this article.
The Claims by National Grid
“Underlying Wipro’s failures as Systems Integrator was its failure to meet one of its core contractual obligations: providing National Grid with appropriately skilled and experienced consultants. The consultants Wipro assigned to the Project were often incompetent, inexperienced and/or incapable of managing an SAP implementation of the Project’s size and scope. Wipro’s consultants lacked the requisite skills, experience and expertise concerning SAP software, industry standards of care and the U.S. utility industry, including with respect to the applicable regulatory requirements and union rules.”
This is Wipro’s reputation.
“Directly contrary to its representations in its RFP Response, Wipro had virtually no experience at the time implementing an SAP platform for utilities regulated in the U.S. In many instances, Wipro failed to provide any consultants at all, much less those who were sufficiently skilled and experienced. For example, during crucial Project phases, Wipro’s team had vacancies in positions as vital as Program Director, Solution Architect and Track Leads for Finance and HR.”
The reason for this is that these types of resources generally don’t want to work for Wipro.
“Wipro consultants also lacked a basic understanding of critical Project areas, such as benefits, warehouse and inventory management, business planning or budgeting consolidations, and accounts payable, requiring National Grid to demand stronger resources. Wipro’s lack of appropriately skilled personnel became so acute that it had to hire contractors to fill essential Project team roles.”
Hiring contractors happens far more than is generally known because the consulting firm asks or demands that the contractor hide the fact that they are contractors. Consulting firms often pretend they had a hand in developing resources that they just plucked off the street.
“In some instances, Wipro inexplicably reassigned crucial consultants off the Project and onto engagements for other clients.”
The answer to this is easy to guess. Wipro has a shortage of good skill level consultants, and they have sold too many projects for their consulting skill base. Other projects most likely demanded that these more capable consultants be reassigned, perhaps because the other projects were at risk.
“The revolving door of Wipro consultants severely disrupted the Project by depriving National Grid of Wipro personnel who had familiarity with National Grid’s business processes and had prior involvement on the Project, resulting in incomplete and ineffective training of replacement consultants, delays in project tasks and inferior work product. Contrary to its pre-contract representations, Wipro’s U.K.-related work was not an applicable or appropriate design template for the U.S. based utilities USFP. And not only did Wipro fail to successfully leverage its U.K. experience, but it also failed to understand National Grid’s legacy systems so that it could effectively leverage those processes that assimilated best with the new SAP system.”
This is because resources without the experience they said they had were filling critical roles on the projects. Consulting companies and Indian consulting companies are known to be the worst at this, routinely falsifying resumes’ experience to match whatever the project needs.
“Ultimately, the fundamental failures in Wipro’s approach to the design of National Grid’s SAP system were reflected in a host of design defects that became clear only after the system’s disastrous go-live, as discussed further below. Rather than build a system that accommodated National Grid’s required business processes and avoided unnecessary changes, Wipro built an overly complex SAP solution that was not configured pursuant to industry standards of care for an SAP implementation of the Project’s size and complexity, and that did not efficiently, or in certain instances did not at all, address National Grid’s actual and necessary business processes.”
This might have been an issue related to using “standard SAP,” which means using inappropriate functionality because it is approved by SAP. The overall SAP consulting market is marred by robotic thinking that tends not to question SAP.
“Further, Wipro failed to understand the end-to-end National Grid processes, and thus failed to advise on the ramifications changes it made in one area of the system might have on another. Instead, abandoning its contractual responsibilities, Wipro defaulted to the role of “builder,” and, even there, failed miserably. For example, Wipro’s coding work was deficient and failed to conform to industry standards of care, including development standards related to SAP’s programming language known as Advanced Business Application Programming (“ABAP”). Among other things, Wipro’s coding: (i) lacked modularization such that its code was not reusable elsewhere in the system, leading to inconsistencies in the code, difficulties in maintaining the system, coding errors and a lack of traceability; (ii) lacked inline documentation, reducing transparency and making it difficult to identify and resolve defects in the code; (iii) was developed with an incorrect technical approach, resulting in increased maintenance expenses; and (iv) did not account for a variety of different conditions and scenarios, leading to more defects in the system.”
National Grid probably should not have accepted using ABAP in the first place. SAP nearly always railroads customers into using ABAP without concern for the fact that ABAP is a highly inefficient language that we covered in the article Why SAP Customers Followed SAP’s Advice on Coding in ABAP.
“On the USFP, Wipro failed to fulfill its responsibilities during the data extraction process, including determining what data needed to be extracted from National Grid’s legacy systems and converting and loading that data into the new SAP system. As was discovered after go-live, in many instances Wipro did not convert and load National Grid’s legacy data into the new SAP system correctly, sometimes loading entire data files that were corrupt. In other instances, Wipro failed to follow best practices by moving through data conversion phases without first resolving key errors that arose during prior phases of the conversion process.”
This is as basic as it gets. Loading corrupt data files can also be motivated by deadlines approaching and an attempt to show progress. It can also be related to not having the domain expertise to validate the errors.
“After go-live, National Grid was also forced to undergo significant re-testing of its system. Even after National Grid was crippled by its defect-riddled SAP system, and after certain remediations were complete, Wipro’s tests were still reporting that the system was operating smoothly. However, when other consultants tested the same processes, they were finding significantly different results and numerous defects. For example, when Deloitte retested Wipro’s test scripts, it uncovered twice the number of defects in the areas of procurement and supply chain. Nor were these additional defects minor: for example, when re-testing certain test scripts, Deloitte uncovered an $8,000 receipt that was recorded in the system as an $880 million receipt – an error that Wipro somehow never detected. Deloitte continued to re-test Wipro’s test scripts through several other system releases that were necessary to fix the system issues. With each additional release, Deloitte’s results were the same: it uncovered many system defects that Wipro failed to uncover, even though Wipro had reported all of its original test results as “passing” or “adequate.”” – National Grid Complaint
This example indicates that National Grid missed even the most elementary items in Wipro’s tests. What would the impact have been on recording a receipt for $880 million?
How could such a large discrepancy not be caught by Wipro’s tests?
System integrators do not offer their clients remediation if the project does not go as expected or if the client does not obtain the desired outcome.
The Tried and True Bait and Switch Technique
I wanted to explain a technique I have witnessed several times now. When a project starts, typically, the consulting company has beaten a rival consulting firm for the contract. This has meant that the consulting company had to bring the best consultants that it could with the most experience, i.e., the “A-team,” to bear on the client to make the right impression. These consultants will always stay through the design phase. However, after the design phase, there is an incentive to pull these more experienced consultants off to win another project. When this happens, and with the contract won, the consulting company may attempt to discretely remove their A team for one reason or another and replace them with a less experienced group, but with the same rates.
The Difficult Way Around This
The way around this is to ask for a commitment for a certain period of the initial group or negotiate a new rate for new consultants on board based upon their experience level. Consulting companies have a limited amount of these resources, and as with all things concerning how they operate, there is a great deal of smoke and mirrors with how they work. There is a lot of trumping up of their resources (called puffery by the courts and covered in this article). The organizations are managed by people who can’t deliver what they promise because the management ranks are filled with people who are motivated to sell continually. This means that it is a continual chess match to work with them. It can be quite exhausting.
Companies often don’t realize that they are dealing with true master manipulators when they bring on a large consulting company. And contrary to much of the marketing literature that each of these companies produces, which describes how unique each of their companies and offerings is, there is an eerie similarity in how they operate.
However, companies could significantly reduce the degree of manipulation they face, get higher quality resources, more motivated resources (because the partners are taking so much of the rate that the companies pay for the resources, as described in this article). And more effectively control their projects by simply hiring independent contractors, finding them on LinkedIn.
Guarantees or Warranties for System Implementation?
This is explained in the following quotation.
Ever analyzed or even thought about software warranties? The carnage caused by the body shops is often extensive but in reality you can’t call them back post go live and say “hey I have a performance issue or business logic error made by you and I need it fixed at no charge”. Reality is they may attempt to correct the problem but on your dime. Somehow it always ends up being someone else’s fault. This is true even if you bought a GA product like SAP or Oracle. If you don’t buy support even in the 1st year of use there are no fixes provided for free and ALL these products have a continuous parade of defects, some subtle others not so much. In the end, software development and sales is not really an integrity driven business as software goes generally available with known but uncorrected defects customers just seem to accept this terrible practice.” – Terence Somers
I have published many areas of SAP that simply don’t work. Consulting firms will, in nearly all cases, hide flawed functionality from their clients. To Terence’s point, every mistake, even the most easily avoidable ones, ends up being put back on the client’s bill. There are projects approved right now that I know will fail before they even begin. But when you get advice from Wipro or Accenture, you get the worst information that deliberately covers up any software issue.
Repeating the Mistakes of the Past
Consulting firms repeatedly activate functionality that I published years ago does not work. A few examples are the APO optimizer, as we covered in the article The Problem with the SAP Optimizer and Flow Control. As we covered in the article, the dynamic safety stock The Experiences with Problems with the Dynamic Safety Stock, and the best fit in DP in Replacing Best Fit in SAP DP. HANA does not meet any of the sales statements about it, as we covered in the article How to Interpret False Information on SAP HANA. That is, this functionality output values, but the values are useless. SAP consultants typically respond to my comments about software functionality not working as “but it is standard SAP.” There are a lot of standard ways of doing things. There is a standard way of falling downstairs. A standard way of falling off a roof. It is standard, but you still don’t want to do it.
One has to be careful taking accusations in legal cases at face value. There is no requirement in a US legal case that any stated be true. However, these accusations seem par for the course with Wipro. Our critique of National Grid is how could they have possibly expected Wipro to deliver what they say they would? The best defense for Wipro is to point to its reputation and say they would not be able to perform.
However, another major problem faced by National Grid is that there are no quality consulting firms to choose from that are large. Deloitte or Accenture may offer high quality than Wipro, but the lying offered by Deloitte and Accenture is off the charts. In our evaluation of all the well-known SAP consulting firms, there are not any whose information can generally be said to be accurate.