A $32 Million Digital Transformation Gone Wrong

$32 Million!

Let’s get this out of the way: there’s sure to be a flurry of reactionary, self-serving tweets and LinkedIn posts offering assistance to Hertz or Accenture before knowing all the facts surrounding Hertz's lawsuit against Accenture. Those offering their services before getting the full story really just demonstrates that they’re just as likely to fall into the same mess that Accenture purportedly did.

Why would anyone spend $32MM on a website? The scope of the project was not simply “a website”. Accenture committed to delivering an updated, redesigned and re-engineered website that was responsive along with mobile apps. As part of the solution Accenture would build a website that was extensible which would include a common core of libraries that could be extended across websites and mobile apps for each of Hertz’s brands. A key component of the solution was for the platform (AEM) to enable Hertz to create new websites and mobile applications for each of Hertz’s other brands including Dollar and Thrifty.

Was the problem the platform or the service provider? Or both? The complaint says that Hertz engaged with Accenture in March 2016 to validate its strategy and planning for this project and that this engagement was governed by a long-standing consulting services agreement that had been in place since 2004. Subsequently, they issued an RFP to some leading technology services agencies and ultimately decided to engage Accenture to build the platform.

Accenture Interactive received recognition from Adobe. On December 18, 2018, Adobe presented Accenture with the “Adobe 2018 Global Digital Experience Solution Partner of the Year” Award. But 2018 was the year Hertz terminated Accenture for purportedly failing to deliver their platform. Hertz terminated their relationship with Accenture in May 2018 following the go-live date being missed in December 2017, postponed to January 2018 which was also missed and April 2018 which was again missed. But they were awarded Partner the Year! And had also won in previous years in the Americas and EMEA.

As a customer would you expect that an Adobe partner with this accolade would mitigate risk around their ability to deliver? [I’m guessing the most likely answer is 'yes'.]

Ultimately, it seems a jury will decide.

In the meantime, this situation brings up some valuable points to consider:

Some platforms are complex and integrations can be critical.

When considering platforms - integrations are hugely important to consider. “One of the primary reasons for these delays was Accenture’s difficulty in developing the “integration layer,” which allowed the customer-facing FED code to communicate with Hertz’s back-end systems (e.g., the systems for making and changing reservations, and the systems for Hertz’s rewards program).

Using 3rd party technologies can carry risks.

In the complaint it seems that Accenture acknowledged it struggled to get A&E Solutions’ product RAPID to function in Hertz’s environment.

Project Management is Undervalued.

In the complaint Hertz explains that their responsive website design was to be based on three breakpoints: small/mobile, medium/tablet, and large/desktop. Accenture delivered small and large. How was this missed? How did anyone have the ok to start building with a missing breakpoint?

Accolades of any kind are often tied to marketing and rarely guarantee quality.

Awards are great and appreciated. They are worth consideration. But when using them as part of your product/vendor evaluation make sure you know what the awards were for and how that kind of work translates to your project. Most industry awards require you to apply. Awards from vendors are often driven by relationships and privately held selection criteria. Ask vendors if they can tell you why awards were given.

Caveat emptor. Buying technology is hard. Should you buy from a one-stop shop? Would buying from multiple specialists that know how to collaborate on projects reduce risk?

Risk. That might be the most important four-letter word of any digital project? Not cost.