British Gas sues Accenture!

British Gas is suing Accenture. Accenture put in place a SAP based system which led to massive complaints against the gas supplier. It turns out that Centrica, British Gas parent, wrote off about 300 million dollars following errors with the system.

British Gas is seeking a multi-million pound damage for the installation of the billing system, which, “caused huge disruption” for the company and its customers. British Gas claims the billing system was riddled with “millions of errors.” Accenture is claiming this is “inaccurate” because it was probably on one million errors not millions, but who is counting.

A preliminary appeal brought by Accenture against British Gas was tossed out by an English judge. “British Gas is now one step closer to holding Accenture to account for the disruption caused to our customers.”

This lawsuit is paving the way for other “users” to sue its outsourced IT development.

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Are we doomed?

Is History Repeating Itself?

About one hundred years ago blacksmiths were considered a highly skilled occupation and like software development, it was labor intensive.  While the blacksmith had been around for centuries, it was the Industrial Revolution that created a rapid growth in employment from 1880 and  1915[1].   The blacksmith was critical to the Industrial Revolution, and the software developer is a critical component of the information and knowledge revolutions.

If, in 1915, someone would have suggested to the million plus blacksmiths employed in the industrialized economies they would be obsolete in less than 50 years, they would have thought that person crazy.  The idea of working with metals, fabricating metals, did not evaporate; it was the role of blacksmith that became obsolete.    The role of blacksmithing turned into ironworkers, and those blacksmiths that did not learn the new skills of ironworkers were not able to find employment.

Instead of creating everything from scratch metal workers (weldings) began to assemble parts and pieces together.  We are seeing this same basic trend in software development today.

As software development rolls down the road of progress, the programmer will become obsolete; and the idea of software developer will continue into the future.  I imagine there are those reading proclaiming, “You will always need someone writing code,” and I am sure there were those blacksmiths who could not imagine a world without them, either.  It will be a combination of automation and outsourcing that will make the Western programmer obsolete.

The story of the blacksmith does not end with the decline of employment.  Today blacksmiths are artists and a novelty profession.  The British Artist Blacksmith Association (BABA) continues blacksmithing as an artist profession as well as offering courses on blacksmithing, and they have regular events..   It has nearly 700 members worldwide and their members create brilliant works of art.


[1] United States Statistical Abstract 1915.  Page 233 Table 158