Don't Be Fooled by Low SOA Consultant Bids


I began to suspect I was in the wrong business about 13 years ago, when I was an entry-level reporter at a semi-daily newspaper. Sure, I'd been warned I wouldn't make money as a journalist -- but I should have asked for specifics.

Vague comments about enough money are meaningless to a 20-year-old. Real examples, such as "You won't be able to pay your rent and make your car payment," or "Pick one: Food or running water" would've been more helpful, I think.

After reading this ZapThink report, it occurs to me that I'm still in the wrong business. If only someone had said to me, "Loraine, forget writing. Go learn about SOA," life would be good. Real good.

How good? According to ZapThink, senior SOA consultants can charge up to $500 per hour. A typical onshore SOA architecture team will cost around $200-300 per hour as an average per-person cost for the team as a whole, it notes. You'll get a slight discount for offshore consultants -- the price drops to a "mere" $100-200.

But as this article explains, many bids for SOA consultants may not reflect the true costs. In fact, you're likely to get widely different quotes from SOA consultants and, oddly, the big firms are likely to bid incredibly lower than mid-size and boutique SOA consultancies.

You'll be tempted to think that there's some sort of efficiency of scale going on there, but ZapThink says that's not the case.

ZapThink contends large firms are pulling a bait-and-switch on clients by bringing in top-notch SOA consultants to sell the service, but when it comes time to deliver, these big companies bring in college graduates to do that actual work. And, as you might expect, they tend to lack the experience and training needed to deliver a full SOA.

Just as I should have asked for more specifics when I started journalism, companies should ask for more specifics before hiring a SOA consultant. It's not enough to ask, "How much?" You also need to ask:

  • Who will do the work for that rate? Will it be you, Mr. SOA expert -- or a team of junior architects?
  • What is the experience level and credentials of the actual team who will work on my SOA?
  • What are the deliverables I can expect and when can I expect them?

The ZapThink article explains the problem more fully and offers a few tips for how you can get around this problem. The first tip, of course, is to realize any bid that's less than the going rate is not a real bargain at all. In fact, you'll probably wind up short-changed, according to ZapThink.

This can be tricky advice to follow, since some government agencies must accept the low bid. Recognizing this, ZapThink suggests you move to a per-project bid price with identifiable deliverables, rather than an hourly rate.

This piece is well worth reading, and goes into some depth about why this is happening and why both onshore and offshore SOA consultants can charge so much.

You might also want to check out these past pieces about hiring a SOA consultant: