In the early days of Mareeba we were working with a client to help them create an extension to their CRM system. As we usually do, we had created a detailed specification and circulated it to potential vendors for their proposed pricing. The quotes that came back seemed astronomical compared to what we felt was the modest scale of the work.
I was so convinced that the vendors had over-estimated we decided to take a bit of a gamble and stray away from our tried and tested fixed price approach. We identified a developer who we knew to have a solid track record at one of the vendors and paid for their services on a time and materials basis, on the basis that they would come and work with us on site.
On the first morning we’d stationed the developer in a glass fronted conference room, and it became obvious that he was fielding a large number of calls from his employer. After an hour of this I invited him to turn off his mobile for the duration of his stay with us. His relief was obvious; the guy had a great work ethic and just wanted to get on with things and was tired of getting interrupted for support calls or input on other projects.
With no distractions, a clear specification, and a capable and committed developer we made rapid progress. So rapid in fact we completed the required work, plus some additional ‘nice to have’ capabilities for just 20% of the price of the original proposals.
The key was that the developer worked away from their office environment where they were likely to get distracted by meetings, support requests, other clients, assorted crises etc, etc.. CRM vendors tend to have a pathological hatred of their developers being off site because they are not available to handle meetings, support requests, other clients, assorted crises etc, etc., and will generally come up with an extensive range of reasons that this just isn’t possible.
If it’s fixed price work I’ve tended to go along with it, unless the project time-lines are particularly tight, but for time and materials work it’s generally a condition of the contract that work is on site with the client. This may entail an increase in travel expenses, but these are generally dwarfed by the productivity gains. The time and material approach isn’t right for all circumstances, but, as this example suggests, used appropriately it can be a devastatingly simple way of slashing implementation costs.