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The proper term for the individuals who work on a project. Contrast this term with "resource." A person is a brilliant machine that, even without programming, will invent things and find solutions to problems—without always having to have a prescribed process to make it work. On the downside, persons require food, breaks, and motivation, and work best when given things to work on that they feel will help other people, too.

Proprietary Development Methodology

Proprietary Development Methodology

A true mark of an ambitious consulting firm in the 1990s was creation of its own proprietary software development methodology. Usually invented solely for marketing purposes, in an attempt to distinguish the firm's processes from those of its competitors. Such methodologies are rarely actually used.

Thankfully, there are plenty of methodologies that have actual usage, peer review, and lack of proprietary lock-in. RUP, Scrum, Agile, XP, and Lean, among others, are well-known, practiced methods that have delivered results for clients. Most modern technology consulting firms, thankfully, have moved beyond proprietary methodologies, realizing that any firm can re-brand such a thing—and therefore, it's almost never a competitive advantage, since execution, discipline, and talent matter much more than process.

To that end, most clients, after having been sold for years on the false promise of proprietary methodologies, realize that there's virtually no upside in using an unproven proprietary methodology versus the common peer-reviewed methodologies with actual surveys of results behind them.

Purple Squirrel

Purple Squirrel

The mythical individual who meets requirements like the following in a job ad:

Looking for a Java/C#/Erlang/SAP/FoxPro programmer (15 years of experience in each required) with 12 years of experience with the System.Linq.Expression namespace writing overloads of the Add method. Top-secret security clearance is required. Must have experience in the nonprofit environmental industry as well as 20 years in the oil services business, working for companies like Halliburton. All these requirements must be met for your résumé to be considered.

Like this mythical purple squirrel, this person doesn't really exist.

A good way to judge whether a consulting company is really a consulting company, versus a body shop masquerading as a consulting company, is to look at their job ads and determine how many look like "purple squirrels." Consultancies have latitude to determine the requirements, whereas body shops take specs from procurement groups who put together an "order" that sounds like something you might hear from the person in front of you at a coffee shop. ("Double-skim gingerbread half-caf soy with a bit of room latté.")



A god-awful, horrible term for "person," invented by a pointy-haired boss at some point in the 1980s, when thinking of employees as people became too much for his soul to bear. At approximately the same time, the PHB started to "downsize" or "rightsize" or "jollysize" or "happysize"—whatever term for "firing" is currently in vogue.

A sure sign of a total jerk is the frequency with which he uses the term "resource" to refer to "people." The term tries to productize people into something on which lazy consulting firms can attempt to slap a SKU. This term helps to perpetuate the project management fiction that people are interchangeable units, which a project manager can rearrange when trying to get projects done. In essence, it's a tool for helping delay the reality that people are not units, but unique individuals, and that you can't manage projects by GANTT chart alone.



The process of spending three months of dedicated time writing proposals to chase a deal for three days' worth of work totaling $1,500, with a vague promise of more work "in the future." Describes any project pursuit where there's a reasonable chance that, during the pursuit process, you could have actually completed the work being sold. For example, six months of pursuit chasing a one-month project is probably "smallball."

Lots of smallball is the sign of an unfocused sales group that isn't doing a particularly good job of qualifying potential clients before investing time in rabbit holes. Everyone has to start somewhere, and playing some smallball to reach new clients is a hazard of building a technology consulting business, but a good way to know if a firm is in trouble is if most deals are four-figure and five-figure deals for less than four weeks.

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