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BOFH: Don't be nervous, Mr Consultant. Come right this way …

Simon and the PFY take a closer look at a 'routine' data translation costs bill

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 21 "Simon, Stephen, this is Gerard, Daniel, David and, uhhh, Karl."

The Boss adds: "They're the implementation team for the new financial system rollout and just want to do some preliminary planning."

"What new financial system?" I ask.

"What rollout?" the PFY asks.

"The financial system rollout!" the Boss snaps back. "You came to a meeting about it six months ago."

"And we're implementing a new financial system based on a single meeting six months ago?"

"You apparently agreed we should proceed with the project. They've made inroads!"

"Was that the meeting with the small pies?" I ask.

"Small pies?" the Boss asks, blankly.

"Yeah, small pies," the PFY says. "Apricot – and apple. Very nice."

"I don't know if there were pies or not, but it's hardly material."

"It is to me" the PFY says. "If I go to a planning meeting with consultants and there's no food …"

"… he'd have to make plans to medicate himself because of his diabetes-induced rage," I finish, before the PFY can disclose our SOP of not turning up to meetings with no food.

"Diabetes-induced rage?" the Boss asks, dubiously.

"It's a medical condition. It's in his HR file," I lie – temporarily.

The Boss looks around shiftily, then decides that he doesn't need to ring HR to challenge this fabrication just yet.

"He needs to have sugar, or he can get a bit belligerent," I lie.  "Remember that incident with the brick under the table when those sales guys ended up in hospital?"

Sugar has no noticeable effect on the PFY's belligerence. He has a resting belligerence level of about 87 percent, which increases rapidly in the presence of software salespeople.

"And it turns out there's a surprising amount of sugar in lager," I suggest, "which is how he medicated himself before that meeting."

"He fell asleep on the table," the Boss says drily.

"Diabetic coma," I shoot back.

"That doesn't explain why you were drinking."

"I didn't want him to develop a substance abuse problem by drinking alone." 

"And what, you had a sympathetic diabetic coma?"

"I have no recollection of those events. But what concerns me is that you're implementing a financial system on the basis of a single meeting."

"We've had DOZENS of meetings!" the Boss snaps.

"Really? Was there food at them?"


"Ah, right then, as you were."

"So Gerard, Daniel, David and, um, Karl would like to get started today."

"Really. So if that's the product, what's the implementation cost?"

"Implementation is included," Karl says. "It's in the contract."

The Boss's smugness level appears to increase.

"So it's all paid for?" the PFY asks.


"Everything?" I ask.


"Even data transformation issues."

"Well, I mean, data transformation would be an additional cost. We can't price around what we don't know," Karl says.

"But you have seen the data?"


"And you know the format you'd be expecting?"

"I … Yes."

"So you'd know the transformations?"

"Well yes. But there's encoding, bounds checking – you know the story."

"I DO know the story alright – including the unhappy ending."

The Boss's smugness is disappearing faster than … fruit pies at a consultants' meeting.

"Well we have a preliminary figure," he admits, sliding a folded piece of paper over to me.

As any good divorce lawyer or redundancy consultant will tell you, few things signal a monumental shafting quite as well as a folded sheet of paper.

I open it a crack to let the horror trickle out in the Boss's direction.  I'm a little disappointed that the page doesn't concertina out. That's what I'd have done, to maximize the effect.

To his credit, the Boss doesn't start weeping immediately – but then I haven't asked the guys about ongoing license fees or maintenance contracts yet. There's still time.

"That seems a little steep for just executing a perl script," the PFY says after turning the page around.

"There's a lot more to it than that!" Karl replies.

"Yes, the uh, encoding, bounds checking, parsnip insurance, burnishing fees and the like," the PFY says.

"They're just routine data translation costs," Karl says. "We have this with every contract."

"Yet they're not included in your 'comprehensive' contract?" I ask.

"It's not possible to include them as each data translation is different from the last."

"They're not even mentioned in your comprehensive contract, are they?" the PFY ask.

"Some clients don't need them."

"So you can name some former clients that haven't had to pay an additional  – and exorbitant – fee?" I ask.

"Uh …"

"We'll take that as a no," I say as the PFY taps away on his tablet. "And if you would, I think my assistant has a counter offer."

"Which is?" Karl asks.

"Just give him a moment while he folds the paper …"

It slides across the table …

"What was the counter offer?" the Boss asks, as Karl and his entourage lose some of their former enthusiasm.

"Was it your home addresses?" I ask. "Because I saw him looking them up."

Karl et al refuse to answer, gather their things up, and go.

"What was your counter offer?" the Boss asks.

"I believe it may have had something to do with his medical condition, the brick under the table and how long it has been since his last lager …"

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