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The main essence of the technical task
Technical task. Interview with an integrator
My name is Vyacheslav Lapshin (V.L.), I am the head of “The Fast Project” 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, I collect the experience of colleagues. Today, Valentin Eremin (V.E.), the head of iHome (Smart Solutions), answers my questions. The topic of this interview is technical tasks. What are the problems in communication with customers, how they are solved.
V.E.: Our company has been on the automation market since 2018, although I have been connected with automation in one way or another since my school days. After the 9th grade, I graduated from Mosenergo College with a degree in Automation of Technological Processes, since then I have been engaged in the automation of facilities using the "smart home" technology, as well as general industrial solutions.
V.L.: How do you approach the organization of work on the creation of technical specifications?
V.E.: This document is important for both the Contractor and the Customer. The technical task is the basis of any work. I usually put the development of this document in priority, since the terms of reference determine, in fact, the outcome of all work. It determines the amount of labor, the scope of work, the quality of the end result, the 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.
V.L.: Valentine, in my practice I met Customers, more precisely, Customers, whose emotionality, in my opinion, went beyond the limits necessary for work. Interaction with them turned out to be more complex and mysterious than in a normal situation. Is there a gender separation of Customers in your experience?
V.E.: I can’t 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 task, regardless of who his Customer is. Even if at the input there is a technical task in the form of only a few lines, it is better to spend time and write it yourself, asking the Customer leading questions.
V.L.: Creating a technical task carries a certain amount of labor. Do you include them in the scope of work under the Contract?
V.E.: Of course, especially if the work to be done is quite voluminous. In this case, it is simply necessary to spend time on working out the terms of reference. I don’t know if there is someone on the automation market who provides services for writing technical specifications. Most likely, this service would be in demand.
V.L.: What difficulties are encountered in the 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 electrician to a project manager for the implementation of automated process control systems. Now I am the head of my business. And at each of these stages, I had a chance to face difficulties due to the lack of or insufficiently well-developed terms of reference. In these cases, the Contractor, one way or another, tries to reduce the amount of work that the Customer expects from him. The customer, in the process of delivery, begins to expand his additional requirements, which are indirectly indicated by a poorly developed TOR. As a result, both the Customer and the Contractor suffer equally.
V.L.: Do you have templates for writing technical specifications that could determine the completeness of the task description, a certain minimum set of questions?
V.E.: I'm not sure if it's possible to create a universal TOR template that would be suitable for any automation job and would be equally good for all organizations. In large companies, entire services are created that are responsible for writing such templates. They collect requirements from different services, for example, an electrical service, a heat engineering service, a quality control service, and then go through the stage of agreeing on an adapted template. Work will not begin 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 any chance that a well-written questionnaire will be able to get the task off the ground?
V.E.: I agree that the idea is good. The questionnaire may allow you to determine the final wording of the task. Based on it, you can write a technical task for almost any task.
V.L.: Do you recall the experience of such work, when there were frictions regarding the terms of reference?
V.E.: There was such a case when the Customer, in addition to the volume that was agreed with him, wanted to receive additional services that, under other circumstances, would cost extra money. However, he managed to hide these additional works for a previously agreed amount and actually "push" them. As a rule, Customers try to dominate, as they pay and "order the music". Of course, most conflict topics are resolved in the process of negotiations. Practice shows that it is necessary to prepare better before concluding a contract, create a technical task in advance and make it an annex to the contract. Then there will be no problems and questions.
V.L.: What was the most understandable technical task you had, according to which the task was easily carried out, and the result of the work satisfied everyone?
V.E.: Recently worked with a large company. Their profile service has developed the terms of reference. The work was carried out harmoniously, it was a pleasure to work in this vein. We clearly fulfilled the tasks set, the Customer did not have any problems with payment.
V.L.: There is an experience of interaction with different Customers in the field of automation using "Smart Home" technology. In my personal opinion, property owners are quite demanding. How are these things going for you?
V.E.: I cannot single out Smart Home Customers as excessively demanding. It all depends on the experience of a particular customer. Someone orders such a system for the first time and all the potential possibilities are not clear to him. It is easier to “surprise with opportunities” such a Customer. There are those who order not the first such solution. More often than not, the difficulty lies elsewhere. Private Customer usually does not live alone. It happens that the opinions of husband and wife differ, and this can increase the amount of various alterations. It is because of this that working with private customers is more difficult than others.
V.L.: Have there been conflicts due to insufficiently complete technical specifications?
V.E.: There were, 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 work with private clients that influences word of mouth. It is very important to build a trusting relationship with your customers. Quality of work and quality of service is the best self-promotion!
firstname.lastname@example.org (Valentin Eremin)