% fortune -ae paul murphy

One neck to choke

Do you know about the lawsuit against God filed by Nebraska Democratic State Senator Ernie Chambers? He's not going after the churchs, arguing instead "that defendant, being omnipresent, is personally present in Douglas County." The news report I read didn't say who he served the papers on or whether the court might accept God's omniscience in lieu of proof of service, but my guess is that any of the churchs representing themselves as God's representatives would be obligated first to accept document service, and second to honor any consequent court orders.

Now you may think his chances in court are slim, but here's a bet: they're better than those faced by people who try to sue big suppliers after selling their organizations on a "one neck to choke" policy as a means of choking out small suppliers.

Ever read a Microsoft consulting contract? Read carefully: on net, it says they're responsible for billing you.

How about a Microsoft EULA/warranty? these give them rights over your equipment, your premises, your data, and your employees - but all they're responsible for is a replacement DVD or download if (and only if) you can prove that the original was defective before you opened the package or unpacked the file.

IBM's Global Services contracts are a lot better: these not only compell them to bill you but frequently spell your name right too - particularly in the paragraphs making them responsible for keeping billable time records and you responsible for everything that goes wrong with the project.

But "one neck to choke" should pay off in the vendor relationship anyway, right? Ok, lets imagine that you invested in international consulting expertise to get your world wide SAP implementation working, but now it's sending invoices for rolled steel to your grocery customers and shipping truckloads of canned tomatoes to Miss Jill's Consular Havens Daycare - in Seville? or how about a imagining that you bought a whole fleet of shiny new PCs running Vista with the latest Office, SQL-Server, and other fine Microsoft products selected and put in by those nice young men from Microsoft, but now you're losing lots of employee time, and Word files, to undiagnozed client-server interactions?

Either way, these problems aren't uncommon - meaning that they're more a consequence of how the software is designed and implemented than of anything unique to you - but do you think you can recover on lost revenues or market position from the vendor? Not likely; in fact the truth is that you'll have a better chance of serious compensation if you characterize your problems as acts of God and go after a local church congregation.

Bottom line? contracts give you power over small suppliers, but are just legal cover for the big guys -so the only neck you're going to be choking if you buy into the "one neck to choke" myth on bigger projects is your own.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.