Everybody Hertz: Accenture and the $32 million cyber fail

By Wayne Guthrie, co-founder and director at Fearlessly Frank

“Amateurs!” Ian Brown could be heard complaining, when the lights — and sound — went out on The Stone Roses’ first ever national TV performance. At a crucial moment, they’d placed themselves in expert hands, and although ultimately the incident increased their mystique, it was, on the night, a total failure.

All any of us can do when faced with a big challenge, or opportunity, is find and trust people with the right skills and experience to help.

This must have been exactly what Hertz were thinking when they hired Accenture to redesign their website and, presumably, to develop an evolved digital practice and presence globally.

Well, apparently, the lights, sound and everything else have gone out on this too, to the tune of a very rock ‘n’ roll $32 million. As we speak, various lawyers are doubtless racking up additional large sums trying to figure out who is responsible for Accenture’s alleged failure to deliver on time, on budget, or on brief.

Of course, the BBC aren’t amateurs, and neither are Accenture. I wouldn’t mind betting Hertz have happily and successfully worked with them multiple times in the past. So, it makes complete sense to have them do this too, right? Well, maybe. The question that springs to mind here is – was this an unlucky case of ‘mistakes happen’, or somewhat inevitable?

I know absolutely nothing about what happened specifically. But like most people, have suspicions, and they begin with an eye-watering number: $32 million. That’s right, for any mortal with a mortgage, rent to pay or school fees to find each month – it’s difficult to read much further than that.

Given that the number is the only specific fact we have to play with, I’ll attempt to riff off it with three suggestions that might have helped.

Firstly, due diligence. Surely when projects creep into the tens of millions, even Howard Hughes would ask a few simple questions like “is that reasonable?” or even “is that industry standard?” I’d suggest that there are a lot of highly skilled and experienced people who’ve spent decades specialising in executing this type of task who are weeping into their morning matcha at the idea of what could’ve been achieved with a fraction of that budget.

Secondly, ownership and visibility. If this project was, as it surely should be, closely aligned to a cohesive business transformation strategy – then there would have been senior stakeholder eyes present and focused across it from both sides of the equation. If not, it was a very expensive add-on, act of maintenance or planned upgrade.

Thirdly, common sense. In the mad dash to enjoy not just a piece of the pie, but all of it, it appears that consultants are attempting to cross-over into execution of their own advice (I get it, racing is fun and when you win, exhilarating and potentially profitable) but it is a different skill to master that doesn’t happen overnight. I’m not saying it can’t be done, consultancies are logically fast-tracking this process through acquisition (if anyone can figure it out it’ll be the recently acquired David Droga, no doubt) but for any client, there must be an understanding that talking part in any integration process involves risk.

Who knows? This all might have happened, the brief might have been perfect, and Hertz went with the best anyway… but unfortunately for them, while a mistake, inevitable or otherwise, ultimately led to an increase in fame for The Stone Roses, the same thing in the world of commercial car rental leads only to bad news for Accenture, and a lot of confused customers trying to get home for Christmas.

I sincerely hope they work it out.

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