Now I’m certainly not the highest paid contractor out there, but I’m also not the least expensive option either. When a project falls back on my desk after the company originally went with a lower cost option, two things happen at my end.
First, a red flag goes up. Why? Well, in my experience, often times the original contractor didn’t ‘cut it’ because the company is in a very, very, bad spot, and the person was in way over their head. Back in the day, I lived for those gigs, I loved being able to shine where others hadn’t.
Those days however, are long over.
The other thing that happens is that the project also catches my interest. I know that’s a bit twisted, but it’s true. My interest gets peaked because it’s also possible the company has a very challenging project, one that will not only use all of my skills, but have me learning new ones as well.
So, when this company decided I was the guy they wanted, I started asking questions.
Not extremely difficult questions, or so I thought.
- How long will I be required to be on site?
- How many days, weeks, months did they expect me to need to be there, before switching to working remotely (as in from my office in NC)?
- What did they plan to have me doing? What portion of the project?
- Was there a copy of the project plan available?
As it turned out, they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, actually fully answer them.
I spoke at length many times with the recruiter, attempting to explain to him that I was not about to travel 600 miles to jump into a project with no scope, no plan, with no idea what I’d be doing, or how long I’d be expected to be there.
One of the answers I did get, sort of, had to do with the length of the contract, as in 3 months, 6 months, a year, longer? The answer was, “This is forever” – That concerned me as well… red flag… what kind of project brings people on board, contractually, with no idea for what length of time they expect to need them?
The more I talked with the recruiter, the more it became clear that he just didn’t seem to understand that I’ve been exactly here, many, many times before. In each and every case, everyone involved all assured me it would all get ‘worked out’ once I was there, and in every case, it never did get worked out.
There were impossible deadlines, long hours and no appreciation for the effort, just demands for more, and more, production.
There were attempts today to explain that the new project had only been granted budget approval in the past couple of weeks, that there hadn’t been ‘time’ to develop a scope, or requirements, document.
That simply raised another question… how does a public company, grant budgetary approval, or properly allocate funds, to a project with no formal specification? Once again, a red flag… a huge, waving, red flag.
In the end, at about 4:30 this afternoon, I simply took my name out of the game.
Too many questions, and not enough answers for me to seriously consider taking the project on.
I write quite a bit about why I like contracting, it’s probably time for me to talk some about the down sides.
Often, a company will start looking for contract help, when their project is in trouble. Hoping that if they just throw some bodies at the problem it will go away, and, if it doesn’t they can always blame the contractor(s) in the short run.
Many times, they’re looking to bring in a ‘rain maker’, a contractor with a track record of success in hopes he, or she, will just put their head down and make it happen. There was a time when I would have done that. Jumped in with both feet and done whatever it took to get the project done, on time, and on budget. Not any more.
I’ve seen far too many poorly planned projects, too many managers who felt the existing application was well enough known that no formal requirements needed to be drawn up, and too many failed projects (and failed companies) to want to go down that road again.
For those of you who’ve never been involved with building a new version of an existing product it’s a bit like building a new house. Except you need to live in the existing house, and the new one is being built around, and over it!
The old application is generally full of problems, things that were discovered after the application had been started, and were never fully addressed. Usually this is addressed using what I call the ‘code around’ method. It involves wrapping enough code, around the problem(s) to mask, and or get them out of the way.
In addition, there are also many ‘had to have’ features, that are no longer needed, and several new features that many of the users know are sorely needed, but that IS/IT has never been informed of, at least in any formal way.
In short, if you’re building this new house, and there’s a problem with the existing plumbing, from and to the street, you need to get that into the project plan early, not allow the builders to think they’ll be using the existing lines!!
I am strangely disappointed though… this gig sounded so good during the initial interviews and technical discussions; I was genuinely excited about the possibilities. The company is a major player in the financial marketplace, doing a booming business, and has little or no real competition in the areas it serves.
Fortunately, I wasn’t banking on this gig to pay the bills!! I know in my heart, that had I needed the gig to put food on the table, I’d be packing, regardless of the red flags. I’m feeling fortunate today to have the gig I have, and also very rededicated to my efforts on the current gig. In fact, with all of this going on today I made real progress on the testing of the VFP 9.0 conversion.
I have all the menus modifications done, and several of the front line form changes tested out and regression tested as well.
I hope your day was a little less ‘involved’ than mine!
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