But Are They Telling the Truth?

But Are They Telling the Truth?
by Ian Frazer

Many CRM projects rely on a master guiding contractor to pull several subcontractors' software components together. The larger issue is the subcontractors' abilities to perform as required. If the guiding contractor cannot control the group successfully, the project may exceed schedule and budget, if it ever completes at all.

Many clients have developed the idea that all software "just plugs together" due to the use of perhaps "mythical" standards. All large integration and installation projects require a degree of software customization due to data conversion issues, hand-shaking sequences, and procedure development issues. These all take time and effort to design, develop, and test in the proposed environment.

The milestones of the project plan are generally a good indication as to whether the guiding contractor is failing or succeeding or whether the ability of a subcontractor should be questionable. If these are being missed, for whatever reasons, the client should be alert to possible fall-out issues. The communication between the client and the guiding contractor is the key to maintaining proper perspective on the project. Written communication - with clearly defined milestones, dates, and activities - is the only way that all parties will have a proper understanding of what is expected. Asking the general question, "How is everything going?" will not get the

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correct information. Being specific and precise on the questions regarding the upcoming milestones is the best bet. The guiding contractor should expect this and have the answers available.

Maintaining open and consistent communication between all parties involved with the project sounds like an easy goal to achieve. Remember that the subcontractors may not care as much as you do about your issues, as they are probably working with other firms on other projects at the same time. Such diversification of assets and efforts could end up derailing your project. Failure may occur due to unforeseen matters, through inexperience, or even due to outright lying.

I have found the following tips are always useful:
- Schedule the time to review project milestones on a regular basis
- Get to know the guiding contractor's key personnel assigned to your project
- Ensure that there is an assigned contact for all subcontractors
- Obtain and maintain contact information for all staff working on the project - including yours and those under contract
- Don't micro-manage: that is what you hired the guiding contractor to do

Keeping yourself apprised of the project milestones ensures that your project continues as planned and proceeds as you expect it to - on time and on budget.

Frazer is a Network Architecht at IPF Consulting in Victoria, British Columbia.

This was first published in March 2001

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