Beware of side deals

A shady business never yields a sunny life.”
B. C. Forbes

Years ago I was assigned to advise the executive leadership team of a very large incumbent carrier on the installation of their first-ever OSS project. Prior to my arrival, they’d had a vendor selected for them that was not quite of their own choosing.

Big OSS Vendor A, let’s call them BOVA, was coming 4th out of the short-list of 3 (yes, they were technically that far behind the other 2 on the shortlist*). But after a rumoured intervention between the Minister of Communications (of the CSP’s country) and the Foreign Minister (of BOVA’s country), BOVA won the OSS contract, BOVA’s country made large foreign aid investments in the carrier’s country and an interesting little (multi-million dollar) side deal was engineered between BOVA and a local company owned by the Minister of Communications’s son-in-law.** The side deal was for the delivery of mediation software on behalf of BOVA.

As we all know, mediation between legacy networks and OSS is one of the more challenging and risky aspects of major OSS projects so BOVA was undoubtedly delighted to have won the contract and offloaded responsibility for one of the most difficult aspects of the project.

But there was a sting in the tail of this side deal for BOVA. The mediation developers were co-opted to BOVA for direction and tutelage, but most didn’t show much interest. One of the local developers was positioned within line of sight from my office and over a period of months I didn’t see anything that resembled code. X-rated movies, games, chat and email appeared to be the mainstay of his day at the office even though the BOVA team was aware of it and took him to task over it.

Nine months into the project, the local mediation developers had apparently created nothing that was useable and the local company took no accountability because their developers had been assigned to BOVA. At that point BOVA had to scramble to build the mediation from scratch.

* At that stage, I hadn’t seen the BOVA’s service offering previously, but I quickly came to realise that their’s was far less sophisticated than the other two, of which I was previously aware.
** I have no idea whether these rumours were true, nor do I have ways of verifying, but they did come from a number of otherwise reliable sources.

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