Why we (sometimes) love consultants

This pilot fish supports PCs and the network at a manufacturing company -- and in his case, that means the shop floor.

And that's a challenge. "There was a clear demarcation line between the office and the manufacturing floor," says fish. "The engineers set the standard, and while these guys were very good in their field, they often made poor judgment calls in deciding on the systems needed for a factory floor.

"They would often put regular desktop PCs on the floor and ignore my pleading to put in beefier PCs that were in mission-critical areas."

That happens again when execs approve the installation of a custom application for the plant. A software vendor is selected, a consultant is brought in, and fish joins the meeting to discuss implementation.

When the subject of PC specs comes up, fish once again recommends beefier PCs -- and once again gets shot down. He's told to let the software vendor handle the issue, but it's clear the office guys believe the existing PCs will work fine.

Eventually a lunch break is called, but the consultant asks fish to stick around for a few minutes so he can ask some questions.

"As soon as the room was cleared, the consultant told me that he thought I was 100 percent correct on the PCs, and he could not understand why my ideas were not be listened to," fish says.

"I told him I thought the problem was simply ego, as these guys were used to being told they were geniuses, and unless you had the word engineer in your title or were an outside consultant, they wouldn't listen."

Consultant tells fish to come up with a list of specs that match how he thinks the PCs should be outfitted, and he'll make that the "recommended platform" to run the software.

So fish makes his list, including such features as mirrored hot-swappable drives, redundant power supplies, heavy-duty cases and extra cooling fans -- all to be used in locations where a PC failure could shut down a manufacturing line.

A few days later, the consultant's proposal arrives. It includes a recommendation that new PCs be purchased for critical locations -- and the specs are identical to what fish and the consultant discussed.

"The engineer handling the project came to me with the specifications and told me to find a PC that met the listed specs," says fish.

"Then he added, 'See, it was good to leave this to the company doing the work, because they know what they're doing!'"

Sharky wants to know what you're doing. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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