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Investigative Report: Enterprise Application Guest Worker Fraud in America

June 18th, 2012 by
H1-B Visa Fraud

Guest Worker Fraud

Last week’s post on why Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud provided a little background on guest worker fraud being investigated now. Much of the spark to light this match was the whistle-blowing activity of a Jack Palmer about Infosys. However Infosys should NOT be considered an isolated incident.

As Jack Palmer’s case demonstrates there are options for consultants who are tired of the fraud. What Mr. Palmer’s conviction and dedication indicates is that you must be willing to stand up and be counted. No one said being a whistle-blower would be easy, but there are protections. Another interesting feature of Mr. Palmer’s case involves the various government agencies and channels conducting several of the ongoing investigations.

United States Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa has taken a strong interest in meaningful visa reform and ending the fraud for some time. As a regular crusader against H1-B visa fraud he has often introduced legislation and taken a stand against fraudulent practices. As one example in a February 10, 2012 Grassley Weekly Video Address: H-1B Reform was the topic.

While some Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud there are still too many customers who are ripped off while their SAP or other enterprise projects crash and burn. Even though there are Hidden SAP Offshore Development Costs, those costs and the negative consequences go much higher when dealing with fake experience from onshore resources. There is a measure of customer trust that workers who are on site, employed by system integrators, had to go through some type of screening and background verifications for experience. Enterprise application customers almost expect that the hiring practices at some of these IT firms mirror their own internal processes. NOTHING could be further from the truth. See this excerpt from Mr. Palmer’s insight (noted last week in Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud):

When asked if all the people had some special expertise that couldn’t be found in the U.S., Palmer said, “Absolutely not. Not even close. Many of them [are] what we call freshers. People that would just come over, whoever they could get to come over. Whoever got accepted for a visa.”

Many of the people brought in, in fact, didn’t know what they were doing at all, Palmer said. “There was not a project or program that I was involved in that we did not remove somebody because they had no knowledge of what they were doing,” he said.

As noted by Mr. Palmer’s attorney Ken Mendelsohn, “Senator Grassley has taken an interest in this situation and actually wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napoliatano.” The letter and responses are attached here and are interesting from the perspective that there are still MASSIVE numbers of B-1 and other visas being issued (primarily to Indian IT firms).

Letter from Grassley

Response from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Conclusion on Helping to Clean Up VISA FRAUD in the Enterprise Application Space

Sadly for those with real experience, whether foreign born or citizen, it is not just the system integrators who are the problem–, often some of the recruiting firms help to continue perpetuating the visa fraud. I’ve heard of many cases where unscrupulous recruiters will provide candidates with resumes the recruiters rewrote to add “experience” and background “employment” that the individual does not have.

Mr. Palmer’s case together with several criminal investigations are underway (with still more to come) but you can do your part to stop the fraud in the visa program by reporting any incidents you encounter.

If the fraud were stopped I personally wouldn’t care if the caps on visas related to high tech were significantly increased or eliminated. Unfortunately I don’t think a real cleanup will happen until some people end up in jail.

As I have long said, I personally have no issue competing with the very best there is anywhere in the world but it gets old cleaning up and working around so many messes left behind in the SAP world. I’m not interested in that kind of “job security.” I want to make the highest and best use of my skills by helping businesses gain real benefit from their SAP projects.

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References and Additional Information on Reporting Suspected Visa Fraud and Abuse

United States Code (USC): 18 USC § 1546 (a) “[Any visa, permit, or other document] procured by means of any false claim or statement, or to have been otherwise procured by fraud or unlawfully obtained…” provides for criminal penalties and fines.

Contact U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley to tell your story or to encourage further investigations or prosecutions: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/contact.cfm

The Criminal investigations into Infosys and other high tech worker visa fraud issues is being partially handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Texas. If you have information about Infosys or other system integrators committing visa fraud reach out to them. You can contact them here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/txe/contact.html

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accepts tips and information related to visa fraud, feel free to report any suspected incidents here: http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp




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How the SAP Consulting Peter Principle Works

September 12th, 2011 by
SAP Peter Principle

SAP Peter Principle

Most of us working in business for any period of time have heard of the “Peter Principle.”  It was “formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1968 book The Peter Principle, a humorous treatise which also introduced the ‘salutary science of Hierarchiology’ …” [FN1]  While the exact quote is a little different, it has come to mean that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence in organizations built on hierarchies.

As an important caveat before getting into this topic, I have known many really hard working folks who have risen through the ranks the “old-fashioned” way –, through hard work and “paying their dues.”

My Experiences with the SAP Consulting Hierarchy

After over 20 years in IT, and over 20 SAP projects, I have seen the Peter Principle again and again.  It’s the nature of how the IT consulting world works.  It is frustrating, and it is enough to drive the competent, diligent, and most talented consultants absolutely crazy.

The “Peter Principle” happens in the consulting world because this is what organizations who implement SAP demand of their implementation vendors.  Sure, that sounds counter-intuitive and crazy, but unfortunately it is a sad reality.

You might be asking yourself right now, IS HE CRAZY?  Maybe a little, but on this point, let me assure you, it is quite true and in a moment you will see exactly how it happens and why.

Enter the Crazy World of Consulting – Why Consulting Incompetence is Rewarded

Once inexperienced, incompetent, or “less than optimal” consultants get onto your SAP, ERP, or other IT project, you are now set up for seeing the “Peter Principle” in effect.  On your implementation or upgrade project an inexperienced or incompetent consultant will ultimately make a mess, however it won’t be seen right away.  There may be signs along the way, but only deep experience will recognize this unless it is blatantly obvious.  There is always some reasonable sounding explanation, or some gibberish, or some babble that is pronounced with confidence but you don’t really understand it. Or, they have become polished and provide entirely rational and reasonable explanations, whether true or not.  After all, they are the “expert” you hired so they must know what they are talking about, right?  Nonsense!

First Sign of the SAP Peter Principle

“Blah, blah, blah”  I have no idea what you just said but just so I don’t look stupid I’m not going to challenge it.

As I’ve written on many occasions, part of the key skills and experience a good consultant or business analyst MUST possess is the ability to take the complex and make it simple.  ANYONE can take something complicated and keep it complicated, or worse still, make it more complicated, or, worst of all, make it a mess.  It takes experience and competence to take the complex and simplify it.  But all that “technical babble” and jargon sounds so convincing, so educated, so, foreign.  It’s a foreign language that you don’t completely understand and these incompetents know it.  Unscrupulous consultants know if they can make something up and sound as though they know what they are talking about you will believe them –, you hired them for their expertise.  They can game you to increase scope, or extending project timelines, or busting your budget and they do this because they are personable and manipulative.

How Can You Identify the SAP Con Artists?

Accountability, Responsibility, and Quality.  The cons avoid accountability or direct responsibility.  On a project where they are discovered they must be nearly forced to have clear accountability for delivery.  They must be pressed into doing what I call “due diligence” around a solution to make sure it will work correctly.

If you catch it early enough you can keep these incompetents from being rewarded for blowing your budget, causing project delays, and creating even MORE complicated and convoluted processes than you had BEFORE you did your SAP implementation.

How Customers Provide Perverse Rewards for Incompetence

The incompetent consultant’s area seems to have users who struggle with problems / issues / bugs that need the most fixing and the most attention.  By this time many companies have invested so much time and effort with the incompetent consultant that they don’t see any other options but to continue with this fraud.  The incompetent consultant is needed badly to support the mess they make for some time after you go live.

One way you can tell you have been manipulated or gamed during the project is by the quality, completeness, and accuracy of the solution the consultant delivers at go-live. 

From a consulting firm’s perspective, the incompetent consultant puts in lots of extra billable hours, helps them get extensions and budget increases, and needs to have lots of extra consulting support.  They are always behind, and no matter how hard “they try”, they always have another excuse for why the problems they cause really aren’t their fault–, it’s always someone else.

These consultants stay on long after go-live to ensure that their questionable solutions are supported by the same person who made the mess to begin with.  This is what customers insist on because by the time go-live happens they are “stuck” with the mess and “stuck” with the “con”sultant who made the mess.

Incompetent consultants tend to be VERY personable most of the time, and ingratiate themselves with the customer / client so that there is no question that they are working SO hard, and doing such a GREAT job.  It could never be their fault.

How SAP Consulting Vendors Reward and Promote the Peter Principle

For the consulting vendor, billing hours go up, staffing and utilization numbers are high, additional “backfill” support is needed and more people are staffed.  From their metrics and possible compensation incentives the incompetent consultant is doing a great job!  On the other hand the highly experienced, competent, and diligent consultants “work themselves out of a job.”  The competent consultants tend to have fewer go-live support issues, they usually have more engaged, involved, and knowledgeable users.  And they are just plain better prepared.  They are not “needed” as you go-live and you, as the customer, get rid of them to cut the blown budget wherever you can.

In a partner oriented firm the incompetent consultant is headed for being a manager, senior manager, managing partner, etc.  The incompetent consultant has great utilization, helps to get more staff on projects, and is always busy.

In the consulting companies incompetence is rewarded and incentivized by the consulting firms.  The most competent and diligent consultants are passed over for career enhancement precisely because of their competence – they may finish projects earlier than their incompetent peers and may be “on the bench” more frequently.

The more skilled the incompetent consultant is at being personable, at presenting a compelling case for why they are doing such a great job but you need more resources, the better positioned they are for higher level promotions.  After all, in consulting firms, senior level positions are focused on getting billable resources out and billing.  The more experienced and capable at this the better positioned you are for partner or senior management.

Stay tuned next week – details on how to spot them and then ferret them out…

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Scams, Shams, ERP System Integrator Tactics

April 25th, 2011 by
SAP System Integrator

SAP System Integrator

 

I recently read two articles I thought I should summarize and review here.  The articles provide two opposing viewpoints of consulting and some lessons learned for service buyers.

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This article on CIO about “7 Dirty Consultant Tricks (and How to Avoid Them)” [FN1] caught my attention.  Especially the part about ways consultants try to “extract money from their clients…”:

IT consultants are among the most slippery of the bunch. Among their favorite tricks: Using “scope change” to line their pockets, claiming expertise they do not actually possess, promising you their superstars and then sending in the rookies, purposely delaying decisions and sowing confusion as they rack up billable hours, and collecting kickbacks from other service providers. The worst ones may even hold your company’s intellectual property or systems hostage until you pay up.

The article title notes it is the consultants but in reality it is the SAP system integrators who pull these types of tactics.  While the scams and shams happen all too often it is the system integrator that uses the “scope change” tactic, does a “bait and switch” with “con”sultants who have little experience, etc.  The CIO article does concede that not all consultants are this way.

The Seven Consulting Dirty Tricks to Separate You from More of Your Money

1.  Bid low and bill high – some SAP SI’s will deliberately bid low and then change order or customize you to death.  Even though you start out with a project you believe will cost “X” they will constantly work on ways to leverage more and more revenue from you.

2.  Bait and switch – they sell the “A” team but deliver the back benchers and water boys.  Sometimes they pad their RFIs and RFPs with first class resumes for consultants who never show up for your project.  Some of the placement firms bring fakes and knowingly help them create fraudulent resumes as well (see Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant and the follow-up piece Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2)

3.  Using stall tactics and distractions – they avoid creating momentum and enable indecisiveness.

4.  Hostage takers – build special “trap doors” into their solutions, use password protected infrastructure, or create contracts that give the consultant / company all of the legal rights to any solutions.

5.  Kickbacks – consultants may push a product, solution, or other consultants that they get paid for.

6.  Selling you far more than you will ever need – does it meet the business requirement, or is it a sledgehammer to swat at a fly when you really need a fly-swatter?

7.  Empty suits or vampires – both will bleed you dry.  Incompetent or unqualified consultants end up on the project and bleed the budget and timeline until there is nothing left.

What an absolute mess!  Unfortunately these 7 ways you get scammed, shammed, or are taken advantage of are pretty common.  The article I referenced provides some great suggestions on how to protect your company.  It’s worth the read.

The Alternatives to the Consulting Fraud Factories

In contrast to these practices, or maybe because of them, we are beginning to see customers use small firms and individual consultants more and more.  While this is a trend that many sophisticated SAP customers are beginning to use there are also things to be concerned about here as well.  Another post presents a great counterpoint to a trend for quality consultants that is beginning to take hold [FN2].

Unlike their larger counterparts, these small one to five person consultancies seem to be more principled in their approach to growing the business. Some of the common values adopted by smaller firms and missing from the larger include:

1. Do not promise what you cannot deliver

2. Do not overextend your resources and get a reputation for poor performance.

3. Do not tell the customer what he or she wants to hear. Tell them what they need to know. They will respect you for it.

4. Network constantly on professional sites such as Linked In. Hit the “Answers” feature and accumulate an “Expert” rating from your peers in your field. This allows buyers to not blindly trust that they will get the right resource but be certain in advance.

5. Blog like there is no tomorrow. A blog is quite different than a web site. Provide good, solid information free of charge and use blog searches for synergistic businesses to team with. Teaming is an absolute necessity these days.

6. Be prepared to provide information, samples and valuable service gratis as a marketing tool. Introduce yourself and then immediately engage the client with your presentation tools available to bring your expertise to whatever topic they are interested in. Let them take you where they want to go with their concerns and their needs. Apply your presentation tools and expertise dynamically on the fly in a sincere manner to those concerns and needs and you will be in demand for follow up business.

7. Quote and bill what the client can afford and grow with him (in content and resources).

8. Be dedicated to working yourself out of a job with a specific customer and having your client take over by training him. He will remember you and recommend you to 10 others.

9. Remember growth is a function of persistence and foresight. Know where your market is headed and get their first – then write and speak about your success indirectly by helping others. Demonstrate humility and a satisfaction in helping others succeed. They will find ways to give you credit. There are ways of tooting your horn without making peoples’ lights go out.

10. Word of mouth advertising from pleased clients is a sure ticket to success.

There are a number of small firms and individual consultants who do outstanding work.  They deliver great results and help you to mitigate project risks while delivering a high quality work product.

And with this introductory post I will be starting a series on the tactics, strategies, and scams used by system integrators in their sales cycles to gain your business.  In the end they are less concerned about delivering results than they are about collecting their fees.

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[FN1]  CIO online, April 11, 2011 – http://www.cio.com/article/679330/7_Dirty_Consultant_Tricks_and_How_to_Avoid_Them_

[FN2]  The Return of Boutique Consultancies…
http://duckdown.blogspot.com/2011/04/return-of-boutique-consultancies.html

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