There was a custom web development company working on several projects in 2008. In fact, growth had been phenomenal and they were busier than ever, so busy in fact they were hiring at a rapid pace. Every project had a series of milestones and on approval by the client for accomplishing the defined tasks, payment was received for the work completed thus far. At the end, the developer would complete a Beta which was the assertion that the project was finished. The client would review the web site and if they found no problems, would pay for final and the site would be made live.
There were weekly status meetings. What is the status of project x,y,z? Everything looked fine until one day, a project was not approved as final on time. Accepting assurance that the client was being unresponsive (it happens) and it would final this week, business continued as usual.
The following week, two projects didn't pass final as they should have but again assurances were provided. Project functionality was demonstrated and business continued as usual.
The following week, 4 projects didn't pass final and now, the pattern was clear but there was no clear path to finding out why they failed. Talking to the programmers, no help. Short of examining every line of code, examining the functionality of the web site, no help. Talking in detail with the project manager, no help.
That's when they...
No, there was no "they"... This actually happened at Universal Net in July and August of 2008. I remember it well because before this was all over, it cost me $600,000.00...
I'm sharing this because I want you to know no one, I mean no one is immune to problems cropping up in any organization, even ours and this is why we do what we do. To possibly save someone like you from the pain we've felt.
You think you're situation is painful and it's embarrassing? I let my staff threaten my relationship with no fewer than 8 clients before I figured out what was going on.
Just like you, I had a business to run. I didn't have time to find this elusive discrepancy in my development pipeline. That's what I had a project manager for and she was assuring me everything was fine.
So back to the edge of the Abyss...
I checked the functionality of the code (not every line of code). I spoke with the programming staff. I spoke with the project manager. Everything seemed okay and the clients weren't much help, that is all except one. She showed me what didn't work. She set me on the path to the hidden features of her site that worked if you put in a specific set of data but didn't work any other way.
We call this faking a milestone. Let's say your web site needs to accept a person's name and email address and it will send this information to you. Let's say this information is supposed to store in a database. Maybe I don't write the code to store it in the database but I enter 8 people's data in the database, when I demo it, I demo using information I already know is in the database and when I show you the results, it looks like it worked.
It turns out my programmers were faking milestones. Almost all of them. In fact, the afore mentioned 8 projects were barely done because every feature had been faked. All of these projects needed to start over from scratch.
Shocked that my Project Manager didn't catch this, I called her into my office to discuss this. I finally learned that she was aware of it but had been covering for the programmers for 12 weeks with a payroll of $33,000 per month, you might be able to see how this was a problem because we really did need to start over.
The end result...
The project manager was fired that moment (funny side story, she tried to sue me for a severance package). The programmers were called in one by one, their code reviewed and I let all but one go.
With one programmer and my art staff, we pulled together those 8 failed projects and rebuilt them all at no additional charge to our clients.
Looking back, I wish I could have found someone to help me find the failure in my team. I wish I could have found someone to manage the remaining projects and help me hire new staff when my focus should have been sales but not a lot of people like this exist and that is part of the reason the UNTeam now does Business Consulting.