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Mistakes when implementing a corporate portal or electronic document management

by admin

Of course, such a post will only find voting approval in the fiery hearts of IT contractors and frontline cyber fighters – but I think to publish it would not be superfluous!
I work as an IT tech at a big company. In general, everything is normal and great. One day our management decided to keep up with the times and had the idea to automate. We were choosing for quite a long time. Electronic document management But either the money was too shy to pay, or the developers some fake, in short, time took all this negotiation and presentation ugliness enough. In the end we settled on a solution. The product is adequate and was developed under Microsoft Sharepoint 2013 Worklite Docs (due to certain circumstances I am very familiar with this system). In general, the choice fell on it.
We put together all of our corporate wants, ordered it, implemented it – launched it. Everything is fine, everything works. But that’s not the point. That was a fable.
I have decided to go on vacation, and, as usual, left for a couple of weeks in May, categorically ignoring everything and everything. Before that, safely rechecked everything, making reserves, and putting my assistant in his place. And he is a guy – I must say a little dull, but extremely meticulous, and in place and in place. Strictly prohibited him to touch or feel anything, and if anything to call me (and I remotely, as a real guru, if anything – I will connect and do everything).
I forgot to mention that I developed some friendships with their tech support, so we treated each other with trepidation and tenderness.
A few days go by, I’m lounging in the sun in a remote but extremely favorable Mediterranean country. And then I get a frantic phone call from my assistant. He describes how he called the guys in tech support, with the tenacity of Suvorov’s flag bearer, and for every nonsense (as far as I understand, he called there about 200 times and asked permanently what kind of nonsense), moreover, he could not even articulate the questions.
As it turned out, the developers guys were humorously and tortured with this jerk – rolled him a letter titled “Memo to the client. I laughed half a day. Then it is a little revised and bring it here – a few corrected version, in the artistic style. It now hangs above my desk in my office!
Here is the Table of Contents (omitting all regalia and references to corporate bylaws):
Typical customer mistakes when implementing complex systems based on Sharepoint 2013:
1. “We’ll do it ourselves.”
Quite a common method, which allows quite a long and nervously part with corporate money, without the slightest prospect of something working or at least remotely resembling a coherent solution on the output, but how fun!
Happens roughly in the following algorithm (the chronology of events may vary):
1) A decision is made to implement a corporate portal and/or electronic document management
2) A budget is allocated in a fairly limited amount (the customer knows better in advance how much funding and timing will be needed for the project, right?)
3) The search for a performer is carried out, by the method of carpet bombing. That is, a huge amount of time is spent in negotiations and presentations – the only purpose of which is to understand what it is all about and what it is eaten with, as well as to find out if it can’t all be done for free and within a couple of weeks.
4) After 5-6 presentations, an opinion is formed “all this is not so difficult, and our Itshniki already know the question very well. But all the same common sense usually prevails and a parallel decision to hire at least one specialist (preferably freelance – then you can not pay a salary)
5) There rises a cheerful flurry of hands with the words “it’s nothing, now just sit for a week, figure it out and kaaaaaaaack do everything yourself. Moreover, the most sensible is usually just a freelancer who looks at all this action on Skype – with a sour doubts, but sighed – of course takes the job (he who pays – and he dances).
6) The project manager stands out. With tenacity worthy sculptor of the Egyptian pyramids – he zealously tries to collect information from departments, departments, branches of the company wishes to the future fundamental solution, to glue together the structure in a visual form and sketch some kind of plan. And then the most ingenious thing happens, it turns out that nobody wants to take any responsibility for the decisions, can not, is not able, and is trying hard to avoid and delay the approval of any barely intelligible changes.
7) With the struggle to compose a more or less digestible plan of work – comes the most magnificent part of the Marlesonian ballet – the formation of the Terms of Reference. This is a song. Moreover, it should be understood that a simple outline of work and a detailed statement of work with a detailed description of each item are different things. Here comes the first realization – it turns out that paying for the development of terms of reference – is not such a strange thing. And to write the terms of reference by hand, not having in principle any experience – a bit time consuming … if not more – almost impossible.
A slight digression from listing the chronology.
(all this time of course pays salary to all involved) Average number of simultaneously engaged employees – about three, with a minimum salary, let’s say, 50-70 thousand rubles. All this riot of spirit is about 2 months – so 300 – 400 thousand rubles approximately already crammed into the project, which in fact has not even started its way to implementation. So we continue…
8) So. The ToR is written. The cheerful but infinitely sad freelance has begun its painstaking months of work. In the meantime, we move on to the design. Of course, for the approval of the design will need to go all of the above way (this is by itself) – although in parallel mode. (Some of those who are responsible for the project prefer to deal with design and TOR at the same time, but then the project usually ends its existence). While the freelancer creates the solution, the project owner goes through all the circles of hell inside the company one more time, and becomes hardened in the interdepartmental battles like Hercules tearing open the lion’s mouth. In general, the design will be approved sooner or later, since the artistic part is the easiest, though, of course, has its own specifics in conjunction with Sharepoint. By the way, many companies think that the design is not necessary (so the dull ending of the whole epic looks even more dull in the light of the standard Microsoft’s template). But that’s later…
9) Then the days drag on and on… dragging and dragging. The sad freelance becomes even sadder, because it is quite problematic to complete a project alone, and there are many specific directions in the process, as well as uncounted corrections, errors, inaccuracies, and so on. IT company employees (about the forest of hands, remember?) help as best they can – but it already turned out that a lot of things require special skills, experience, and that in general, all not as fun as initially imagined. Accordingly, the timing of the project is delayed and delayed. Responsible for the project of course finds himself between a rock and a hard place, and generally has become accustomed to receive scoldings from his superiors and hit a wall of incomprehension of unruly freelancing and perky, but infinitely more native IT stuff. As the classics said, “The roses on his cheeks wilted and turned to ashes.”
10) Days, weeks, months (sometimes even years) go by in such merry disorder
The result is usually sad. At the end result is something strange, not very handy, crooked, with a lot of static pages and pseudo appearance used in the mid-90s. But the funny thing is that it works! Falls into errors, does not allow you to do almost anything (what it was started for) – but it works. And it is even used!!! The person responsible for the project with a look of a Viking cruiser – proudly looks down on the pale shadows of his subordinates and even allows you to say hello to him by hand! Never mind that it was spent (at a slim calculation) four times more than the Developer Company would have taken, never mind that even the deadline could have been to conquer a small African country and build skyscrapers there! It does not even matter that it is absolutely impossible to work in it, and opening the main page – causes a panic attack in absolutely everyone, including even the fish in the aquarium. Officially, the project is done! Hooray!
P.S half a year later, the leadership comes to the conclusion that the project is still “something wrong” and after rapid negotiations with 2-3 companies (given the sad and highly paid experience) promptly concludes a contract with an official developer on the estimates.
Dear clients! Development and implementation by your own forces of complex and specific solutions based on MS Sharepoint is the sport of people brave and with disdain for the world. Try and dare, but just in case allocate double budget at once and prepare for colossal deadlines. We are not responsible for your mistakes, either financially or temporarily. And even if the previous front of you have already been spent (that would be their own doing something) a few million rubles, and a lot of time, it does not mean that we have to make you pay for their work on a reduced price in five and undertake to do everything for a couple of weeks. Appreciate your money and our time.
2. “We want cheap, a lot, and everything at once… or better yet, free.”
The customer is ready to work with a third party company. He has already paid for and formed a Technical Assignment, and he knows exactly what he needs, but he does not want to pay for something else or God forbid, to talk about money.
It often happens that the customer already knows what functionality he needs and is looking for a company to implement it. The TOR is already there and in principle the conversation is always quite substantive in all aspects except for financing. In most cases, it turns out that the customer needs almost everything! That is absolutely everything that can be presented in the technology market (Corporate Portal, EDMS, BI, KPI, Design, etc.), but the budget is so ridiculous that no developer seriously take it as a potential client after announcing the maximum possible financial cost. Moreover, the customer postpones disclosure of the budget amount literally until the last moment, seriously expecting that such a policy can roll. Well, agree – the amount, for example, less than 500 thousand rubles, just logically can not be regarded as a budget for the entire listed functionality. This type of customer – usually terrorizes – everyone and everything. Endless correspondence, meetings, negotiations – in order to squeeze out in the end a sum that can hardly cover the Borjomi drunk during a nervous breakdown of the manager leading this client.
Adequate amounts (even much lower than the market) – puts him in a stupor. Like a golden widow with orange eyes – a client goes puffy in his chair when he hears the sum of more than 100 thousand rubles and rolls his eyes thinking that he’s just being robbed.
Dear customers! Please, try to adequately understand complexity and possibilities of financial expenses in development for MS Sharepoint. Currently there are no solutions or opportunities in the world to make serious development or implementation of such systems for such sums. You can’t implement or even just run an implementation of an Electronic Document Management System for 80 or 100 thousand roubles – such cases are unknown to science so far… Remember that developing from scratch for a specific customer’s specific needs is different from a boxed solution. And the proportionality of the financial costs will be very polar.
When developing for the customer – you get exactly the solution – which is specifically agreed with you, and bears the specifics of your company.
If you buy a boxed solution – you get a finished product, which is implemented in a universal form and requires from you the skills of a developer in case of need for revisions. You only get a license to use and technical support in this case. But the developer company is not obliged to modify it to your specifics or according to your wishes, if it is not stipulated in the contract beforehand.
We are not responsible for backups, refurbishments, training, “let me try this” experiments, deletions, and malfunctions – that were made by your technicians during operation. We are always willing to help the customer, but we don’t take on your mistakes or training without proper funding and documentation.
3. “We bought a boxed solution from you, now we want you to train our specialist for free – because we don’t want to pay for rework in the specifics of our company”
The customer books and pays for a boxed solution. There’s no talk or mention of any revisions or training. Well, why pay, right? Because there is a system administrator, who has any skills, ranging from building a system of intelligent analytics and ending with the design of ballistic missiles. He can do everything quickly and efficiently. So – the client’s management pays for the solution in the basic form (without customization and modifications) – the product is delivered and deployed on his facilities, a sad system administrator or his assistant or assistant assistant assistant (who sees all this pleasure for the first time) comes – and the game begins “please teach me everything, I want to be like you! And if you don’t teach me, you’re bad and I’ll complain…”
Dear customers! We are not responsible for the technical skills of your specialists. We are always happy to offer ours – but every labor, as you understand, must be paid. Our specialists will always be happy to teach, show, refine, rework, develop anything for you – but it will require a financial investment on your part. If you bought a car, the dealership is not responsible for your ability to drive it. If you wished to save money on modifications of solutions for your needs and thought that your specialists can cope with them, it is assumed that they have technical expertise in this industry and can easily work in such applications as Visual Studio and Sharepoint Designer – while fully understanding the logic of development for MS Sharepoint, as well as understanding the logic of processes in EDMS, orders, EDS, web part development, etc.
Technical support means only advisory work within the implemented functionality and does not mean training of your specialists. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capabilities to teach basic MS Sharepoint skills to the customer’s specialists for free. We recommend that these courses should be taken at a specialized institution of the “Specialist” level or included into the contract and paid for separately.
About the same question we want to raise when your specialist “killed” the system on its side, deleted everything, gave away admin rights to the first encountered or just poured gasoline on the server rack and set it on fire: We do the restoration, backup and structuring – only if this is clearly stated in the contract and as a consequence – was financially provided by the customer.
4. “I’m in charge of project management at our company, but I really want to go away unexpectedly on vacation or just disappear for a couple of weeks – so that your technicians can’t contact me with questions of interest within the project, and then I want to come back and ask – why isn’t it ready?”
At the conclusion of the contract for the front of work – the first thing we always insist that the customer would be allocated a responsible person, who will be responsible for feedback from the client. Usually it is the head of IT or one of the closest subordinates. It is good if everything goes smoothly, but sometimes it happens when the letter from our specialists remains unanswered, and a detailed study of the question reveals that the person in charge has left on vacation – to warm his or her feet in the hot California sun. In general, that is not bad, even as something to envy. “Ah, America is a country, they walk and drink without snacks. Only here would be desirable, that would warn in advance or how that all the same to cooperate in this matter, as – in the process of development – a lot of questions arise. Because he flew away – a tourist somewhere in a distant country, and did not say a word to anyone – take it out here as you want. And when he returns, his bosses will ask him “And how are our mournful affairs going, Pyotr Ivanovich, for example, on the finalization of the document card? And Peter Ivanovich, and had no idea, he rested, spontaneously and did not care about the card document, and the document itself, and the bosses, and us too at the same time … Well, as a consequence, began to send us emails, saying whether you’re ready all set? Where to see? And why, they say, you idle, lazybones, for our money?
Dear customers! In the process of development – there are a lot of questions, and from you required verbal participation and operational feedback on issues related to the ambiguous moments or simply with clarifications, without answers to which to continue the logical chain of development is extremely difficult, or there is a risk of implementation in the wrong way and not what is necessary exactly for your company. Responsible from the customer side of the project – should always be available by phone, email or at least skype. And a huge request to notify us in advance about absence. If we can’t get an answer from you within a week – it means we’re extending the deadline for the contract for that week, and then you shouldn’t call every five minutes asking ‘Is it ready now? Sorry, but we’ve lost a week because of you, so we don’t have to bear the cost of adding staff to meet deadlines that have been postponed through your fault.
Regards, Worklite Docs Technical Support.
Electronic document management and Worklite corporate portal

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