“Well, you know, this’ll be easier when you guys need support from us,” Bob told Peter, tugging at the calendar tacked to his cube wall.

From his seat on Bob’s empty file cabinet, Peter blinked. “Wow. I’m already a ‘you guy?’”

Bob laughed disarmingly. “We built the network it’s installed on. It makes total sense.”

“You’re not running up against our non-compete?” Peter asked.

“No, man. We’re ‘consultants’ now- totally different gig.” Bob turned back to add in a whisper, “and making twice the money! Lunch is on an expense account, by the way. Want to come to the steakhouse with us?”

Peter couldn’t fault Bob, especially not in the age when most employers discarded entire divisions like empty bottles of Evian. Still, in a way Peter felt like he was being left to sink or swim, not the company.

“Who came up with this idea?” he couldn’t help asking. “You or them?”

Bob sighed and looked down at Peter, in more senses than one. “Look, it’s not important. Hang in there, man. Maybe one of these days, you’ll get to do the same thing.”

Instead of developing in-house— too expensive— Peter’s company had contracted ConsultPro to implement a SharePoint core to unify dozens of their business applications. The project had lasted over a year, long enough for facades to melt away. The “strategic partnership” morphed from a collaboration of equals to a nimble parasite feeding off a dim- and slow-witted host. Not only was ConsultPro raking in monstrous hourly fees for its “specialized expertise,” it was also poaching three of the company’s engineers.

Peter wasn’t bitter. His chief responsibility lay in network account administration, so it wasn’t surprising that ConsultPro hadn’t come at him with the magical Wand of Consultant. However, there would be lots of knowledge transfer and shared responsibility until replacements arrived, cutting into all the work the department already had to do. Peter was also backup support for ConsultPro’s new solution, and had to familiarize himself with its underpinnings. He read up on documentation, played in the test environment, and handled the smaller tasks that primary support didn’t have time for. Meanwhile, Bob and his cohorts ascended to the land where money hemorrhaged upon those who dressed the most basic observations in the fanciest terms amid the swankest soirees.

The new system had some minor hiccups, as new systems do. It went live, and users acclimated. All went well for several months. Management toasted themselves for hiring outside help and reducing the Engineering budget, freeing up company resources to better focus on core strategies— like management bonuses. Perhaps the company didn’t need so many developers and support reps after all—

—and then, a major crash paralyzed everything. No one could log into the SharePoint portal. Thousands of users lost access to the apps they needed to do business. Peter’s CEO placed a frantic call to ConsultPro. Within an hour, Bob and the other two poached engineers returned to their former workplace and secreted themselves away in the biggest conference room on Peter’s floor.

Peter wasn’t primarily responsible, but decided to drop in on Bob and his old coworkers. “Hey! How’s it going?”

“Hi.” None of them managed more than that. A tension normally reserved for bomb disarmament choked the air out of the room.

“Um…” Peter grasped for something to say. “Anything I can help with?”

Bob ran a hand over his thinning hair, sighing and muttering. “It’s been two hours and we haven’t figured this out. You better clear out of here. It’s really complex, we’d probably bore you.”

Peter peered over Bob’s shoulder, at the error message on his laptop. “It could be that the security log’s full. Have you checked the application’s internal registry?”

The consultants in the room glanced up with a shot, questioning looks on their faces.

Peter walked Bob to the proper registry key. “This should be a 1, not a 4. It does that when the security log is full and has failed to be cleared and saved properly. Run the script save-and-empty-seclog, that should take care of it.”

Stunned, Bob nevertheless complied. Within minutes, everything was up and running again.

“How did you know that?” one of the other consultants asked, astonished.

“It’s in the documentation,” Peter said. “The same documentation you released to us. So this is why you get twice the pay I get?”

Peter shrugged, and left before any of them replied.

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