11 Replies Latest reply on Aug 15, 2016 8:22 AM by bertrand

    What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)

    c0nsilience

      Scenario: You're a hundred hours into a project, so there has been a lot of time invested in development (i.e., you've gathered all of the data/info, created your ERD, come up with the workflow and table schema, built the backend, built the layouts, created your scripts and/or custom functions) and you've delivered a beta to the client.

       

      Problem: Client hasn't given you all of the information, they are trickling it out to you, after the fact, and will not let you interface with the actual department(s) that will be using the solution, so you're caught in a conundrum of beta editing/tweaks, where you are pulling things out and putting things in.  You're now at multiple betas and this doesn't appear to be changing.  A project that should have taken 1-2 months, tops, is now 6 months in.  You've talked to the president of the company and they insist that you still go through this single individual that (a) doesn't appear to know what their departments need and (b) seems readily content for this project to go on ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

       

      Solution: ????

       

      Do you...

      • Cut them loose
      • Stay in it, because you're still getting paid
      • Insist that they get their workflow together and you'll help them with this
      • Post it as a hypothetical question in the FileMaker Community
      • Other ideas

       

      Any/all thoughts are appreciated and I think this thread has the potential to really help developers that might be new to working with clients.  I've been in this situation in the past, as I imagine just about everyone has, but I'm interested in the perspective some other devs can bring to this potential issue.

       

      Thanks!

        • 1. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
          philmodjunk

          because you're still getting paid

           

          Is I think the first consideration.

           

          Next, you need to look at their "satisfaction level". If the people you are working with are happy with your work, you can shrug your shoulders and say "hey, the checks aren't bouncing and it's steady work."

           

          But if they are expressing dissatisfaction over your product and you, then you will need to balance the income vs. the damage to your reputation and decide where to draw the line. If you decide you have reached your limit, then:

           

          I would not suddenly terminate the project. I would meet with the powers that be, calmly state why you cannot continue with the current process and then carefully base your response on theirs and only after careful thought. They may express a willingness to change or they may not and that can determine for you what your best course of action is.

           

          If there is any kind of contract for your services that you have signed, you may want to spend some dollars getting legal advice. You don't want to be sued over this. Even if you don't seek a lawyer, at least very carefully review any such agreement, written or verbal before making any drastic decisions.

           

          My first major database project in FileMaker was for a small business owner that drove people crazy due to micromanaging the process. He'd stand behind me while I had a layout up in layout mode and dictate color, size and position of the objects on it. But I realize that I was billing him by the hour to design his database and this was both inflating the total income I was making off the project and I had a good relationship with him (and still do today) otherwise. So I just shrugged and let him dictate.

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          • 2. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
            c0nsilience

            philmodjunk wrote:

             

             

             

            My first major database project in FileMaker was for a small business owner that drove people crazy due to micromanaging the process. He'd stand behind me while I had a layout up in layout mode and dictate color, size and position of the objects on it. But I realize that I was billing him by the hour to design his database and this was both inflating the total income I was making off the project and I had a good relationship with him (and still do today) otherwise. So I just shrugged and let him dictate.

            Yeah, I couldn't get with that at all.  I've developed a disdain for micromanagers and, even if it means a loss of potential income, refuse to waste my time with them.  You've got more patience than me, phil!

            • 3. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
              CarstenLevin

              Dear c0nsilience,

               

              Your question is extremely interesting and central to development of IT solutions.

               

              And answering is very difficult.

               

              Questions:

              • Is the customer satisfied with the process, do you have an agreement about evaluating the process every 1-2 months?
              • Is the process damaging your work to an extent where the over all quality of the project and the solution is compromised?
              • Is it possible to decide on versions. Agreeing on a first version and then offer the micro manager a new phase just after the first.

               

              Though situation. But not something most of us have not tried every now and then.

               

              We had one case with a small two person recruitment company that really needed a solution. We described, made diagrams, screen layouts etc. before developing. And let them follow the process all the way through. Approving each single step. And then, when we delivered they changed their mind ... they got new ideas that the wanted integrated, expansions that they "needed" etc. etc. But we where developing at a fixed price.

              Dilemma: They had not paid and if we did not include the expansions  they would not pay.

              We considered either adding 40-50% extra work for free or to take them to court for the payment. We would probably have won, but we have never settled anything via the court system and that's not the way to work with customers, at least not lasting customers:-)

               

              When we had the next project meeting we told them that what they where doing was blackmail, and that we would not work for them and that our project was brought to an end by their methods.

              They where shocked and tried to pressure us to deliver. We might have been able to reach some kind of compromise, they really needed our solution. And now they suddenly claimed that what we had build was exactly what they needed, and with the expansions it would be perfect for them.

               

              The problem was that they had also been rather unpleasant towards our main developer on the project. And I considered that new problems would probably come up ... and in my opinion: Never-Draw-A-Gun-Unless-You-Want-To Fire-IT!

               

              They even pledged to pay for the solution as it was if they could get it and start using it. They where nearly shouting when they understood that we would not work for them would not have their money. We asked them to leave and they kept their money and we did not have to work with them. Never tried that before and never tried it again.

               

              Your case is different. You have, as I understand it, been paid during the process. If the value of the project is destroyed by you stopping, then you should probably pay some of the money back?

              So you may need to find a solution and land this project.

               

              Not easy

               

              Best regards

               

              Carsten

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              • 4. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                philmodjunk

                It depends on your definition of "wasted time". It can, and still be annoying and other potential consultants have dropped him in the past, but I still make $$ off of him and have done so for years--and having a good business relationship with him has paid off a number of times in other ways such as his recommending me to other businesses in town.

                 

                I just saw it as a simple way to provide him with exactly what he wanted and get paid well for it at the same time. (If you have lots of people clamoring for your services, you can more easily afford to drop someone you don't like to work for, if you don't (I was new to the consulting biz at the time and needed the work), then you're a lot less able to walk away.

                 

                But severing any business relationship in this fashion is a lot like a divorce, there can be a lot of negative backlash, such as the client badmouthing you after you leave and thus costing you business. In these days of social media, that can really be a tough hit to take.

                 

                So you really have to look before you leap on something like this.

                • 5. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                  c0nsilience

                  Phil,

                   

                  I definitely agree with this and every developer should take it to heart.  It's a tightrope at times, man.  We put their current workflows, what they use, what they like and dislike into a blender, and hope that we are creating a lasting tool that increases efficiency and productivity.  Yep, can definitely be a tightrope!

                   

                  I prefer to not burn bridges unless I've already planned for air travel.

                   

                  Thanks for the insight and the answer!

                  • 6. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                    c0nsilience

                    Carsten,

                     

                    Yeah man, that sounds like a pretty "fun" experience.  I've never really been in the cross-hairs like that where I felt like a client was trying to extort anything, but I have dealt with some scope creep in my time, which can eventually take a little bit of a psychological toll, especially if you're juggling multiple projects.

                     

                    The beauty of full-time FM development is that you can always have a unique set of problems to solve; this can also be a downside if you're working with a client that really doesn't want to solve a problem, but would rather create them.

                     

                    It takes a tremendous amount of experience, insight, communication and maturation to weed these folks out before you ever open FMPA.

                    • 7. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                      David Moyer

                      Hi there,

                      I wanted to share this link to a short video my former employers put together - "When to Fire a Customer".

                      They're talking about internet retail customers; but you can probably apply some of their philosophy to your situation.

                      entreMANUREship | enteMANURE | Tom and Joe Inc.

                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                      • 8. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                        srzuch

                        I would really need to know the contractual terms of your engagement before providing a good response.  Fixed price or pricing per hour? Is fixed price based on specifications?  Are there other contractual obligations e.g milestone dates? Are are you structuring the product as software as a service?

                         

                        Regardless, getting a working product in the customers hands as soon as possible is best for the client's ROI and their ability to define additional needs. 

                         

                        Steven R. Zuch, CPA

                        • 9. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                          coherentkris

                          If the customer is satisfied then its your choice to bail or not.

                          Sometimes the right thing is to check your ego at the door.

                          • 10. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                            TorstenBernhard

                            1. Does the contract allow for coverage of extra cost: if yes, continue, if not : stop

                            2. Will you be able to deliver something the customer accepts and appreciates: if yes, continue. If no, stop

                            Each of the two must get a yes-answer. Otherwise the hole thing may be at your expense.

                             

                            At the end it all depends on the customer's wisdom. There are always shortcomings in project management and information providing on the customer's side. Add power games between departments and individuals and unclear job specs...

                            If the customer tends to put the blame for his own shortcomings on you as the supplier, better back off. If he assumes his responsability, this may lead to something beneficial for both parties, given that 1. and 2. get a positive answer.

                             

                            Cheers

                            Torsten

                            • 11. Re: What do you do when...(an interesting hypothetical dilemma)
                              bertrand

                              c0nsilience

                               

                              I sell solutions for restaurants and each manager has its proper ways for working and wishes.

                               

                              One client is like your's. I never say "No" for his demand but I've set some date for next version and include some parts of what he wants or needs. Each version is from ½ or 1/3 price of the complète solution.