Letter to a friend:
“The Expert & the Donkey”


My dear friend ,

As you know there are a lot of jokes about consultants or experts, such as this one:

A journalist asked a local person in Corsica:
- “How do you decide here, in these mountains, where to build a new road?
- Very simple! We take a donkey and we look which way he goes. We build the road on this line!
- But what if you don't have a donkey?
- Oh! Then, we call an expert!”

No such joke in our business! Everyone needs good experts !

Years ago, the top managers in this activity were all "experts" ; in other words, it was perceived necessary to put, at the management level, people who had accumulated years of experience in the domain. The top guys had a long history of cable laying, sea operations, components developments, quality control, project management and quite often they had begun their working life in the laboratories as young R&D engineers. It was the case for the suppliers, but also for the carriers' submarine cable department.

These times are gone!

The present top managers are coming out of business schools, their focus is on costs and profits and they manage their sub-cable unit using standardised methods, primarily driven by short term bottom line figures. They are often chosen among people who started their careers directly at the corporate level, in finance departments or administrative units. No field experience. It is a top to bottom process, no more the other way around. This is also true for cable consortia whose management groups are often led by new comers. It is even truer for the private sector, the network or regional cable owners. Most of them have no history behind them and no in-house experts.

But the challenge and beauty of the submarine cable activity come from its specificity and complexity. It needs actually a lot of expertise if one wants to avoid dear consequences. The bottom line can be dramatically damaged by very little things that can only be detected by people with good noses! This is why there is a growing business for good, independent, highly qualified groups of experts, able to offer the much-needed range of expertise.

There are many good experts around, either self-employed or organised in small companies. We are grateful to the big companies who did lay off so many guys after 20 or 30 years of loyal and good services. These guys are now available on the market for whoever needs them!

I am aware, my friend, that you are planning a new cable to connect your good country to the global network. Do not hesitate a minute! Select a good expert! It will not be an extra cost but, in the contrary, an investment easily recovered in the course of your project !

Trust the expert not the donkey! Do not make an ass of yourself !

Jean Devos
Submarcom Consulting
AQEST Senior Advisor

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