RE: Round #4263 with the Client From Hell

Subject: RE: Round #4263 with the Client From Hell
From: "Mike Starr" <writstar -at- wi -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2002 03:25:48 -0600

Normally, I'm like "Yeah, what he said" when I read one of Andrew's posts
but this time I have to fling a tomato in his direction <grin>.

I think Andrew perked when he saw the words "process document" in Elna's
tale of woe and he started growling and snarling about process (as I would
normally do as well) without actually reading her post carefully. When you
bid a fixed-price contract, you've got to put some sort of formal process
(there's that darn word again) in place even with the most agreeable of
clients just to make sure you've got a basis for knowing early in the
project if the customer's satisfied with your current progress and if the
customer's likely to be satisfied overall with the deliverable.

It seems to me that what Elna and her group tried to do was say to the
customer: "We're going to deliver drafts of these documents on X date, we
want the following people in your organization to review the document
within X number of days and provide feedback. In order for us to do that,
we need you to provide us with the following sorts of information about
your product by such-and-such dates and if you change the product while
we're working on it, we need you to let us know what you're changing as
soon as possible. Do you agree to do things that way?"

And dammit, before you know it, you've got a dadgum process.

And it sounded from Elna's post that the customer said "Okay, that works
for us" and in spite of some deviations from the plan, the customer
indicated several times along the way, in spite of numerous opportunities
to do otherwise, that things were looking good.

So, here's my question for you, Andrew... how do you deal with setting
these things up? A beer and a handshake or do you actually sit down and
negotiate a "process" with your clients?? And don't get me wrong... I'm not
saying you have to do things that way; I certainly don't (and for that
matter, never have). So far, I've just sealed arrangements with my client
with a discussion and a handshake and it's worked out fine; the customer
and I have always been satisfied with the end result (knock on wood). I
suppose one of these days I'll get bitten on the kiester because I don't
write a formal contract that incorporates some of this stuff but maybe
Murphy'll continue to look the other way.

And BTW, I don't think Elna was being unprofessional by discussing her
situation here. Had she not gone to great lengths to eliminate identifying
information about her client, I might have criticized her but I can't see
how anyone could possibly relate her message in this forum to any one
particular company.

And Elna... have you considered asking Big Augie from Chicago to drop in on
your client and politely inquire about when you might expect payment with a
little something extra for your troubles?? <grin>


Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
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