Re: Quality problem with a contractor--advice needed

Subject: Re: Quality problem with a contractor--advice needed
From: John Posada <John_Posada -at- NOTES -dot- CC -dot- BELLCORE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 1996 13:43:31 -0400

Hi folks:

Hi!
--------------------

I know there's a lot of contractors on this list, so I hope you'll be
able to help me with a situation my company is dealing with right now.

I'm a contractor
-------------------

We engaged a contract tech writer through a local placement agency to
do a 1 month contract that involved revising an existing procedure
manual as well as creating some new procedures. The revisions went OK,
but the new material was nowhere near detailed enough to be considered
a complete and useful document. The writer delivered the draft only a
few days before the contract was up, so there was not sufficient time
for it to be properly reviewed, much less revised by the writer.

Of course, you had several document reviews to make sure that everything was
going OK, right? There can be reviews during a month's period. The vast
majority of my documents (proposals, usually between 200 and 500 pages) are
done in less than a month and I may send out up to 10 versions of the
document...progressively filled in, fleshed out and refined. Obviously the
early versions are very crude as far as format and completeness, but at least
others can see the direction of the document and how it's building toward the
final version.
-------------------

Now, the manager who engaged the writer doesn't want to pay the
remaining bills to the agency for what he considers a virtually
useless document. The agency said they have already paid the writer,
and they can't afford to have more work done at their expense, but
they can offer us another writer to finish the project if we're
willing to pay.

The contractor produced "a finished document" on schedule, right? If so, and
without written specs regarding depth, detail and quality (which is almost
impossible to document), you got "a document" when you were supposed to get the
document. Maybe your schedule was unrealistic for the depth of the document
that you thought you were going to get. Did the writer seem like he/she was
working? Was the work done off-site or on-premise? Now you've got to pay for
the document.

You blew it when you didn't do regular checking on the product being produced
by a person that you knew nothing about first hand.

Your only real alternative is to not use either/both the writer and the agency.
------------------

Please realize that I'm somewhat of an observer to all this. I offered
to find a contractor for this area of the company since I did not have
staff available for this project, but after the selection was made I
had nothing to do with the management of the project.

BTW, the project specifications were made quite clear to the
writer--how many pages needed to be revised, what new processes needed
to be documented, and sample procedures from the existing manual were
available for review.

If they were that clear, why do you have the problem that you do now. Either
they were only clear to you or the writer lied when asked if they were
understood. Remember...you own the document. The responsibility is ultimately
yours that an acceptable product be produced.

Geee...kinda sounds like the Joan Collins situation....and remember...the court
said she could keet the advance
--------------------

Well, what do you think? What is the agency's obligation to us, and
vice versa, and how do you think we can get this resolved? I
certainly have my own opinions, but I'm curious to hear what others
have to say.

I will say that if the agency wants your business again, then they should take
on part of the effort to get it fixed...like maybe hire a writer and only pass
on to you the direct cost of the writer without overhead, profit margin, etc.

John Posada
- Central New Jersey Employment Manager
Society for Technical Communication
http://stc.org/region2/njc/

- Technical Proposal Writer
Bell Communications Research
(908) 699-5839 (W)
jposada -at- notes -dot- cc -dot- bellcore -dot- com

"We dont want to go back to tomorrow, we want to go forward'"
- Vice President Dan Quayle
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