Technical task. Interview with an integrator
My name is Vyacheslav Lapshin (V.L.), I am the head of the Fast Projects company. At the same time, I am developing my blog, collecting and posting information about automation. Thus, I try to share my own experience, and, as far as possible, collect the experience of colleagues. Today Valentin Eremin (VE), head of iHome ("Smart Solutions"), is answering my questions. The topic of this interview is terms of reference. What are the problems in communicating with customers, how they are solved.
V.L .: How do you approach the organization of work on the creation of technical specifications?VE: This document is important for both the Contractor and the Customer. Terms of reference is the basis of any work. Usually I put the elaboration of this document in priority, since the terms of reference determines, in fact, the outcome of the entire work. It determines the amount of labor costs, the scope of work, the quality of the end result, functionality and hardware composition of the system being created. It is convenient for the customer to demand the volume that he expects, and the Contractor has a clear framework for the performance of work.
VL: Valentin, in my practice I met Customers, more precisely, Customers, whose emotionality went, in my opinion, beyond the limits necessary for work. Interaction with them turned out to be more complicated and mysterious than in a normal situation. Is there a gender division of customers in your experience?
VE: I cannot comment on the gender division of the Customers, since I worked only with men. I don’t remember any other situation. But I think that the Contractor must have the skill of creating a technical assignment, regardless of who his Customer is. Even if at the entrance there is a technical task only in the form of a few lines, it is better to spend time and write it yourself, asking the Customer leading questions.V.L .: Creation of a technical assignment bears certain labor costs. Do you include them in the scope of work under the Agreement?
VE: Of course, especially if the work that needs to be done is quite voluminous. In this case, it is simply necessary to spend time working on the technical task. I don't know if there is someone in the automation market who provides technical specifications writing services. Most likely, this service would be in demand.
VL: What difficulties are encountered with partial or complete absence of technical specifications and who mainly suffers from such a combination of circumstances?
V.E .: I have quite a lot of experience in Mosenergo. In it, I went from an electrical fitter to a project manager for the implementation of an automated process control system. Now I am the head of my business. And at each of these stages, I had a chance to face difficulties due to the absence or insufficiently well-developed technical specifications. In these cases, the Contractor in one way or another tries to reduce the amount of work that the Customer expects from him. In the process of delivery, the customer begins to develop his additional requirements, which are indirectly indicated by a poorly worked out technical specification. As a result, both the Customer and the Contractor suffer equally.V.L .: Do you have templates for writing a technical assignment that could determine the completeness of the task description, a certain minimum set of questions?
V.Ye .: I'm not sure that it is possible to create a universal template for technical specifications that would be suitable for any automation work and would be equally good for all organizations. Large companies create entire services that are responsible for writing such templates. They collect requirements from different services, for example, electrical service, heat engineering service, quality control service, and then go through the stage of agreeing an adapted template. Work will not start before the terms of reference are not agreed between all services. We do not have a template for writing technical specifications.
V.L .: Is there a possibility that a well-written questionnaire will be able to get the problem off the ground?
VE: I agree that the idea is good. The questionnaire can help determine the final wording of the assignment. Based on it, you can write a technical assignment for almost any task.
V.L .: Do you remember the experience of such work, when there were frictions regarding the technical task?
V.Ye .: There was a case when the Customer, in addition to the volume that was agreed with him, wanted to receive additional services, which in other circumstances would have cost additional money. However, he managed to hide these additional works for the previously agreed amount and, in fact, push them through. As a rule, Customers try to dominate, as they pay and “order the tune”. Of course, most of the conflicting topics are resolved in the negotiation process. Practice shows that it is necessary to prepare better before concluding a contract, to create a technical assignment in advance and make it an annex to the contract. Then there will be no problems and questions.
VL: What was the most understandable technical assignment, according to which the task was easily accomplished, and the result of the work satisfied everyone?
VE: We recently worked with a large company. Their specialized service has developed the terms of reference. The work was done in a well-coordinated manner, it was a pleasure to work in this vein. We accurately completed the tasks, there were no problems with payment on the part of the Customer.
VL: There is experience of interaction with different Customers in the field of automation using the "Smart Home" technology. In my personal opinion, property owners are quite demanding. How are you doing?VE: I cannot single out the Customers of smart houses as excessively demanding. It all depends on the experience of a particular Customer. Someone orders such a system for the first time and they do not understand all the potential possibilities. It is easier to "surprise with opportunities" such a Customer. There are those who order not the first such solution. More often the difficulty lies elsewhere. A private customer usually does not live alone. It happens that the opinions of the husband and wife differ, and this can increase the volume of various alterations. It is because of this that work with private customers is more difficult than others.
V.L .: Have there been any conflicts due to insufficiently complete technical specifications?
VE: There have been, but we try not to break off relations. We understand that only a positive attitude can be the foundation for building a business. Even if we see that the situation is heating up, we still try to find a compromise. It is working with private clients that influences word of mouth. It is very important to build trusting relationships with your customers. The quality of work and quality of service is the best self-promotion!
firstname.lastname@example.org (Valentin Eremin)
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