There's no such thing as job security

One tech worker crunched the numbers, only to uncover disturbing data on his company's economic health

It's no secret that job security is on everyone's mind, and I've been in that position myself. After getting laid off from a boutique consulting/contracting company in the early 2000s, I managed to land another position at a similar firm that showed great potential. Over time, however, I learned that the company's promise was too good to be true.

My first project was managing a four- to five-week consulting engagement to define the information integration architecture for a division within a large biotech firm. My team got to work, meeting with stakeholders, interviewing key staff, identifying pain points and success factors, and assembling the product. Throughout the process, I tracked actual hours against planned hours and actual deliverables against planned deliverables. Our analysis, architecture, and road map eventually encompassed 60-plus pages.

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Though we weren't very late in delivering the documentation, we were working more hours than projected. I grew concerned about sustaining this effort, so I poked around the shared drive and found project plans made by my predecessor. I also asked the accountant for time sheets covering these assignments, from which I created my earned value reports.

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The evidence was incontrovertible: Every single project was dramatically over budget. Each of these projects was supposedly a success, but in terms of payroll and other expenses, they cost more than the revenue they generated. When I went to the CTO with this news, he didn't believe me until I showed him the data and explained my earned value projections.

I made it a priority to change my projects so that they were financially successful. I cut back the deliverables by over 75 percent. In place of long documents, we produced a PowerPoint stack. In lieu of analysis statements, we wrote up our notes and delivered them as is. Product comparisons, as well as pros versus cons, went out the window. Instead, we provided a summary of the solutions with a road map and an offer to further evaluate recommended solutions as part of the implementation analysis.

When we were almost three weeks into our next five-week engagement, we had completed only 15 percent of the work, and it looked like we would go more than 400 percent over budget. I had to kill the project. But before we finished, we negotiated for cost increases because the client failed to meet their contractual terms and closed the project profitably -- the first moneymaking project I could identify.

It was then that I decided I had to move on, but before I could make my move, the CTO called me into his office and told me the company was closing its doors in two weeks. However, he asked if I would consider working hourly with three other colleagues to help close down some projects. It was better than unemployment, and the rate and terms were good, so I agreed.

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