Thought for the day:Stop cowboys taking us for a ride

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.I thought I'd say something on the financial...

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.I thought I'd say something on the financial scandals that are impacting the IT world. But rather than just spout, I've asked the opinion of Leon, my embattled IT director chum.

Leon said he wasn't surprised, especially about WorldCom. He felt that MCI (one of WorldCom's vanquished) was actually one of the most professional companies he had dealt with and had achieved so much in the US, where Leon had worked.

It was a crying shame that this good company had been brought low by a cowboy, he said, and he's sure that more will follow.

Leon asks, where is the transparency under which such companies are supposedly run? It just isn't there in many cases. In a case like WorldCom, it was management by fraud; not just a misunderstanding but blatant fraud.

These managers of fraud basked in the glory of their magic touch, told others how their methods worked, were feted, received enormous salaries and loans and were raised to high positions. The internal culture did not encourage people to look too closely at the magic, if you tried then you weren't a team player, and if you tried too hard, you went.

Yet if any one of us just cheated we could achieve astounding results too. Why don't we? Well, says Leon, it's probably because most of us actually bother to study, get a BSc and an MBA so we know that two plus two equals four and not plus or minus $4bn! But as I reminded him, the auditors fouled up too, and they had qualifications that said they could add.

Leon believes we can achieve transparency by returning to the barrow in the market concept - you see the stock, you can see the prices. The barrow goes out with so much money in the morning and comes back with so much at night. You can compare the performance of each barrow, by day, by product, by whatever.

Meanwhile, Leon had a few ideas on how to deal with those managers of fraud. Unfortunately, they are unprintable.

What's your view?
How can we stop financial disasters like WorldCom? Let us know with an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Martyn Hart is chairman of the National Outsourcing Association and practice director at Mantix, a consultancy that delivers value from complex programmes.

Read more on IT risk management