Re: need advice from contractor (fwd)

Subject: Re: need advice from contractor (fwd)
From: "Peter Ring, PRC" <prc -at- PRC -dot- DK>
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 09:27:27 +1

An unanswered cry for help on TECHWR-L on 15 July '99:

> I started a project May 26 as lone contract tech writer with this major
> client (here at national hqtrs) where they are building a new software
> system for some of the administrative bookeepers. The team here consists
> of 4 business analysts, project leader, manager, and other assorted
> systems people, and the outside systems vendor, (Sapient), along with some
> assorted end-users in the background. Aside from the vendor, I am the
> only contractor. My part in this project has been totally frustrating,
> from the start.
> They expect me to write HTML Help files (though the vendor is compiling.
> I just write Word docs for screens.) That's their last priority. Also,
> they want me to update their procedures, with the new changes with the new
> system. They also want me to write the training doc for the training
> sessions, though I myself will not train. All this, should be finished,
> when the system is "live" on Sept 6.
> I just FINALLY found the deadlines yesterday. The first two weeks, I had
> no company ID, network ID, etc. A month after I began, the user testing
> sessions allowed me into the 'mix', where I finally got to see the tool
> they're building. Now the business analysts, who are 6 floors away from me
> (I'm isolated about as much as possible), are reluctant to give me
> information about the actual procedures. They also have decided that they
> should arrange meetings with the end users and me. I asked email
> questions about the procedures, and they balked, thinking that I'm asking
> them to document, and my role is just to re-type.
> I'm at the end of my rope--any suggestions?

Yeah, these nightmare unprofessional clients exists, and you've just
hit one of the really bad ones.

Now you have got the following two choices:

* If you don't do anything, the situation will continue until maybe a
few days/weeks before the deadline. You will end up with an un-
satisfied client who will maybe even refuse paying you for the hours
spend. And you have (fortunately?) lost the client.

* If you act, you may run into problems with some of the people, you
are working for, but at least you have increased your chances
significantly for getting paid for the time spend on the project so
far. And you will win respect!

Here is what I would do NOW, remembering that project management has an
obligation to the top management to have everything -- including the
manuals -- ready on September 6:

1. Take a meeting with the persons which causes the problems. Tell
them, that you fully understand their time/ressource problems, but if
THEY don't supply YOU with the information needed, YOU don't have any
chance to meet their deadline, and that will in the end be their
problem. If they agree to collaborate, give them say ONE week to show
that it can work before continuing to step 2. If they don't agree, go
directly to step 2.

2. If it don't work, write a formal letter to the person in charge of
the project, send by registered mail for your legal protection, telling

- that due to these and these specified problems, the delay is now so
and so much, suggesting how to solve it (start collaborating with you
NOW + new introduction date/extra payment/hire one more contractor/
... ), and asking for a meeting aiming at getting the problems solved.

- if these demands can't be met, you will consider their part of the
contract broken, and you will consequently stop working for them and
invoice them for the time spend so far, which is xxx hours/days @ $

Good luck !

PS: Fortunately I have never been in that situation with any of my
clients, maybe because I report un-solved problems to the person in
charge very quickly.

Greetings from Denmark

Peter Ring
PRC (Peter Ring Consultants)
- specialists in user friendly manuals.
prc -at- prc -dot- dk
- the "User Friendly Manuals" website with links, bibliography, list
of prof. associations, and tips for technical writers:
- special software for technical writers:

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