Have a good contact (telecommuting)

Subject: Have a good contact (telecommuting)
From: Bonni Graham <bonnig -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 1995 12:04:37 -0700

Win wrote:

>I'm interested in hearing how others who telecommute handle being "out of
>the loop" -- I can see this as being the biggest problem.

Well, I handle it by trying to have one REALLY GOOD contact at each site (I'm
currently juggling about three contracts right now between me and my two

Two contracts are going very smoothly because the communication is top-notch.
One is through a personal and STC friend, so right there we're already prone to
communicate. At the other, I have an email account (although they don't usually

give that to contractors) and I'm on the phone almost daily with the project
coordinator. I go in for a status meeting once a week, and receive faxed
information regularly. The email is the best part, though. I tend to email my
questions to SMEs anyway (at least until I don't get an answer -- then I camp
on their doorsteps), so it's not really very different from my being there.

The third contract just blew up because I didn't have a good contact -- I'm
over my estimate because I wasn't getting the materials I requested (SME
information) and we had to spend a lot of time guessing and trying different
scenarios. Having a good reliable contact would have helped this immeasurably
(I know this from the other two contracts that are going smoothly). I recently
spent about an hour in a very tense meeting with the company's CEO, with him
spending most of his time saying, "What do you MEAN you didn't get programmer
notes/updated specs & design guides/draft reviews back at all?"

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS (slightly off-topic, but hopefully valuable

1) Have a GOOD contact and delegate contacting that person appropriately. If I
had put my subcontractor in charge of talking to the contact, I could have
approached the CEO immediately--head-of-business to head-of-business--when we
didn't get our information, without feeling like I was going over anyone's head

2) If something even seems to be going wrong, reestimate and communicate the
problem. I made the nearly fatal assumption that, since we weren't getting the
information, the CEO would know my estimate was no longer in effect --it had
been based on not having to do a lot of research and pseudo-QA to find out
system parameters and procedures. The other faulty assumption was that the CEO
knew that I wasn't getting the information. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

3) Put all your assumptions in the contract. I know, I know, everyone says to
do that. I had been putting what I thought were the key assumptions in (stuff
like deliverables and payment schedules). However, there are some other key
assumptions that probably wouldn't hurt to include, such as:
1 your estimate and basis thereof
2 what they are to provide you (IN DETAIL, including preliminary materials
and draft reviews)
3 what you intend to provide to them (likewise, in detail)
4 what the procedure is to be if #2 or #3 is not met

The experienced contractors out there are probably reading this thinking, "She
didn't do THAT?! What a maroon (to borrow a phrase from B. Bunny)!" But I'm
willing to embarrass myself by showing my stupidity if it will prevent even one
other newbie contractor from having to undergo the conversation I had to last
week. It was NOT pleasant.

Bonni Graham
Manual Labour
bonnig -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com

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