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I found out yesterday that a project I’ve invested $45,000 into and countless hours is going to have to start over from scratch. Well, almost. Much of the research we’ve done is still sound, but the server we hired a consultant to build and implement has to be rebuilt.

Here is the lesson learned: When you hire a consultant make certain that the terms of the contract are specific. In my case, the contract was very high-level–more of an overview than anything else. So now, when we’re trying to find ammunition to hold the consultant accountable, we have nothing. I cannot definitively say, “This is what you agreed to accomplish and you only did that.” I should have created a specific, detailed list of tasks to be done. Instead, there were assumptions on both sides that led to over-promising, change orders, and extensions that led to a project running two-times over budget with nothing to show for it in the end.

The consultant we hired is a great guy. In fact, he and I have much in common, particularly our love of software development and a commitment to get the job done. However, he is not a very good communicator. Nor was he consistent at doing so. About mid-way through the project we discovered this fact and took measures to mitigate the effect. We asked for daily status updates and weekly calls with the stakeholders. The daily messages were sporadic at best and the weekly calls occurred about a third of the time. He was also responsible for some training of my team on the new product. Though that happened, he was not a very good trainer either.

What can I pass on from this experience? We interviewed the consultant before we signed a contract. On the phone, he seemed like a really good fit. In fact, as I said before, as a person he was an excellent fit for our environment. The interview went great. However, we did not contact any references which may have fleshed out some of the issues we ran into.

With this particular project, we were anxious to get it to completion. It had been dragging on and on under the direction of the former project manager and stewardship for this system was transferred to me in an effort to get it to production quickly. I was too hasty in getting the consultant on site and made some rash decisions in doing so.

The key to this, and most other things in life, is patience. The appropriate amount of time, thought and effort will always reveal the truth.

Categories: General
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  1. 17 January 2012 at 6:30 am

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