Last Friday after a long day and a drive from a clients’ office for the launch of their new website, I received a rather strange email from a gentleman looking for some advice/assistance for his column. We get a lot of spam, but this was different. After a couple of seconds of research on the “journalist” and the “DailyCaller.com” I decided to stretch the day just a little bit longer and give ”
Josh Peterson, The Daily Caller’s tech editor, and I had a short conversation about what was needed – “an expert’s advice on the cost and execution of the inter-agency jobs’ website – USAJobs.gov that had been built at a cost of over $6,000,000 and vision was to provide one resource for all national governmental agencies, divisions, etc. to post jobs and receive applications.
We hung up and I started researching the website, testing it, and in about an hour and a half Josh and I were back on the phone discussing my thoughts.
To make a long story short – and to summarize this post, basically the site cost way more than it should. Read the full article about the USAJobs.gov project at the Daily Caller.
Governmental Waste – USAJobs.gov
Politics aside there is waste and corruption in the government (there is waste and corruption at most small businesses we work with!) so it came as no shocker that this project, and the hysteria surrounding it, were examples of this. As Josh explained however, it was in an attempt to lower costs that many Agencies are turning in house to existing staff (or hiring additional staff) to construct specialized projects – like websites, and in the case USAJobs.gov.
As I explained, both over the phone and as appeared in the final article – there is nothing I can see that would lead me to believe that the $6,000,000 price tag for a website such as this is acceptable. Let’s look at that number for a second.
How Much is $6,000,000
If you had a staff of 10 developers – let’s say :
- 1 Project Head/Project Manager
- 1 Art Director/Oversite
- 3 Programmers
- 3 Designers
You could pay them ALL $600,000 a year for a full year to construct USAJobs. The staff above is rather large for such a project, and the length of time – ahem – lengthy, but it’s just an example. However, as many of you probably suspect $600k for any of the above roles is about 5 times the going rate for such a team/expertise.
Let’s look at $6,000,000 in another light.
Typically we, the private sector, break down our company by an hourly rate… how much do we need to bring in to cover all costs, marketing/sales, and finally make a profit? That number can be all different, but for professional firms (companies that have been in business a couple of years, are viable, have a dedicated staff, and continue to make a profit) the rate ranges between:
$85 – $350/hour (Atilus charges $120/hour – and $350 is an exaggeration – the largest I’ve seen is $250)
That sounds like a lot, but when you divide these into $6mil you may be astounded at how many man hours this should afford (in a typical private sector transaction). At Atilus this is often how we break down projects, before, during, and after development – on an hourly basis – how many resources do we have, and how many will the project take.
- On the low end $85 this affords – 70,500+ man hours
- On the high end $350 this affords – 17,000+ man hours
There are only 2000 working hours in an average year (40hours/week)…. this is a lot of time! That’s 35 years on the low end, or nearly 8 at the more expensive rate. Granted, you don’t build a website of this size with one person (although I argue it could be done).
Negotiating Relationships, Use, Etc.
My biggest problem with the site isn’t necessarily that it cost $6,000,000 it’s what was done for $6,000,000 and what – in particular – the end user is presented with (their experience). As a matter of coincidence my business partner had to use the site for his side company and expressed the same problems many others were having with the site. Namely:
- Hard to use
- Funky login/logout
- Loading problems
However, I think all of this doesn’t speak to what is usually the biggest obstacle of any project – interfacing with the people in charge, and being provided the materials (or in the very least answers) one needs to continue. Here I could see a massive delay in response time, negotiating the ladders/chain of command at various agencies could be a major problem and lead to exploding costs (not to mention who knows how agencies get their data/jobs INTO the system?).