When you drop sugar, you’ll get ants.

When you drop sugar, you’ll get ants.

Why your kitchen is crawling with software vendors

We all know stories about companies outsourcing their development to some shady low cost firm and getting sub-par results in return. “If you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys”.

The monkeys in this case are inexperienced software developers. They just don’t get it and their work is sloppy and lazy. They race against the clock and every feature you get is half-assed. Not paying peanuts is the solution.

Many bright people decide to trust their hard earned IT dollars in the hands of respectable development companies. They have fancy names. “IT integrators”. “Solution providers”. They don’t employ monkeys, but only the smartest and most efficient hard workers : the ants. They have a solution for each of your problems and can always find the right profiles.

If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is.

How to get ants?

Monkeys are not attracted to the peanuts, but to the fact that you’re holding a whole bag of them. Because you keep asking for the cheapest, they know you don’t know what you’re doing. The same logic goes for the ants. Your combination of cluelessness and a large amount of money will attract them like a plate of donuts in the sun.

Do any of these sound familiar?

Big colonies.

You’ll never have a single ant in your kitchen and likewise, you’ll never have a single consultant on your project. All of your problems can be solved by scaling up.

Specialized castes.

You’ll need analysis ants and development ants. And an expensive Project Queen. If there is still some sugar left, we can add Agile Coaching ants and a legion of testers. Maybe an Architect creeper? Some UX/UI workers?

Complex systems.

Ant colonies are an intricate system of rooms and tunnels and while it seems to be working for them, you have no idea what’s going on. High level designs and (G)antt charts never seem to tell the whole story. They embrace and encourage this complexity. Until you run out of sugar.

So you’ve got an infestation. Now what?

The ants are not to blame when your kitchen is overrun. It’s your kitchen, after all.

  1. Stop ordering high-glucose projects. Embrace a less-is-more approach. Instead of having a 2 year flagship project with a high profile Integrator, do a 2 month experiment with a medium size agency.
  2. Consider calling Pest Control. An external party can review your project plans before you green light it to your vendor. Is it bloated? What are the risks?
  3. Always clean up after yourself. Finish projects before starting new ones. By having software that’s in a perpetual state of 80% done, you’ll constantly need more ants to work on your next thing. Start finishing even if that means killing off work-in-progress.