Contractors · Product Development

What is the best way to ensure that technical (hardware/software developers) contractors are not missing deadlines?

Minita Choudhary Founder & CEO at AuraSafe Inc.

September 14th, 2015

I want to hire a new contractor for building a hardware product prototype. 
What is the best way to ensure they stick to deadlines? 
Has anyone already faced a  situation where deadlines were missed?
What actions/precautions did you take while preparing the contract to deal with such situations and after it happened?


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Skip PhD Founder/President at Elegant Audio Solutions

September 14th, 2015

Hello, Minita

There are a few guidelines and suggestions that might help out with managing the development.  Since my company does exactly what you're referencing, I can speak to what we do - and it seems to work.

1. Make sure the hardware team that you contract with has experience that is directly related to your needs.  There are many technologies out there, and those who are good at one, might not be good at another.

2. Assure that the contractor will sign up to a "fixed price" agreement, with a schedule of deliverables, defined by the program plan/schedule.

3. Withhold a small percentage of each deliverable payment (say 10%) until the entire project is complete - then, be prepared to payout the withholdings upon successful completion.

4. Have weekly or bi-weekly status meetings to discuss status, and any issues that might be an exception to the plan.  Be prepared for adjustments to the plan if any of the development activities start to fall outside the scope of the original plan.

5. Have a pre-defined method of handling "out-of-scope" activities, and be sure to reflect any changes into the program plan.

6. Require that Invoices are based specifically on deliverables, as defined b y the program plan.

7. Have a predefined Invoice payment plan, and  pay to that plan.  It helps to keep both sides happy.

Good luck,

Skip

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

September 14th, 2015

Find a local contractor if you can. You want to be in the same time zone and near enough that you have have face to face meetings if you need to and visit their facilities.  If you are a virtual connection and on a different time zone then chasing deadlines can be disasterously time consuming. Picking up prototypes will also eliminate other delays and can enable more corrective stages if you need them. Although virtual conference facilities like Skype are great they cannot beat face to face on projects.

Make sure you include the preparation of a manufacturing package in your contract or you might end up with something that can't be manufactured in the volume you need. I once had a company utilise a component in a mode than wasn't fully spec'd by the manufacturer and we had to pretest 2,000 to get one that worked as we needed. Always ensure components are used to the manufacturers spec.

Mostly deadlines are missed through poor communication or insufficient goodwill in the relationship so make sure you have those factors nailed and that you speak the native language of the design team.

Anonymous

September 15th, 2015

Hi Minita, 

  • Releasing payments along with percentages done.
  • Regular Status Calls with the team, in every week and set milestone for that 
  • And if dateline missed for rare cases penalty as decreasing the service cost. 

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

September 15th, 2015

There is a simple way - don't set them.

20th century methods treated everyone as cogs in a machine. Then people were surprised when the machine ran as slow as the slowest cog. So they set out to micro-manage every cog. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now.

For one simple reason - you can only estimate how long things take if you've done them before. Repeatedly. Oh, you can guess, from adding together bits of the task etc. But you always miss something. So does your contractor deserve punishment because you've estimated badly?

If your hardware or software is so standard that you can set deadlines accurately, go out and buy it off the shelf. Don't make it yourself, or hire somebody else to make it for you. 

But if you are asking people to venture into the unknown and create something new, don't work with a goal - work with a system.

The system sketches out what you believe will be the timeline and everything which is required at every point - people, data, hardware, finance. If you are doing this with a contractor, make sure you're both on the same system and they aren't simply operating a magic box (no-one can see in side where the magic happens). And set a host of milestones along the way - smaller tasks you can schedule more accurately. 

Once you see the overall timeline, you can dynamically allocate resource. Perhaps if we put more people on it, we could get this done quicker. Some parts, of course will be fixed because that person or resource is shared or allocated elsewhere. If, for example, you have an expert datascientist only available for one week, you must look at what can be made ready for their slot. You can set sprints - all hands on deck short period where a milestone is hit - just don't forget you can't sprint all the time.

Then animate this system. Make it dynamic, automatically reallocating resources and rescheduling as things get done, overshoot etc. See where you have a fixed point but things aren't going to be ready - and what you can reallocate to make it happen. Create a visual dashboard, so everyone can see what is happening and where they are in relation to it.

And expect over-runs. What you have created is a perfect world model. But you are working in uncharted territory. You have a butterfly wings effect - all it takes is one piece of code to take a day instead of an hour and everything goes off schedule increasingly. Create a back-up plan for overruns - more people, more resource - and a reward plan for under-runs (otherwise work expands to fill the time allotted).

One thing not to do is hold meetings, especially those with everybody in the room. The more meetings, the more time is lost. And meetings often act as a focus point for dissent, blame, loss of morale and short-term panic "solutions".

Maan Hamdan Entrepreneur

September 14th, 2015

Hello Minita First let me disclose that I am a founder of a software development firm that provides the services you are looking for. I started the software development practice 10 years ago to provide services to my company HRsmart. When I sold HRsmart in March, the new owners had their own development teams and the software factories that I had built were not needed, so I turned them to the new company TechGenies. My suggestions to you, regardless of who you end up contracting this work to are: 1. Unless there is a high probability that your project may not succeed, I would go the route of hiring -through an outsourcing firm - your own development team to create the prototype. The financial commitment will be less than the cost of paying for the prototype, and you have the ability to retain the knowledge and expertise of the programmer to do the real development if that is the next step. 2. Make sure the people that develop Make sure the contractor accepts part of the payment in equity in your company (if you are willing to give some equity up) as that will make them a partner, rather than a contractor. I am copying the CEO of TechGenies on this email. I am sure he will be happy to give you a free consultation if you need it. Maan Hamdan Founder [cid:1CD95D68-617B-4975-B260-F8326F6D4735] Your Wishes: Exceeded ------------- 972-365-1958 | maan@hamdans.com [cid:F5495434-37A6-491B-A060-17871CB6B7D9] [cid:36A66AC2-E42F-4CB7-A2EA-87A66BCB0556] This email contains information that is confidential. Unless you are the intended recipient, delete this email immediately and contact sender at the address above.

Minita Choudhary Founder & CEO at AuraSafe Inc.

September 14th, 2015

Thanks Skip! You completely nailed it down to the smallest detail.
I'll keep these in mind 

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

September 15th, 2015

What is the best way to ensure that technical (hardware/software developers) contractors are not missing deadlines?


While there has been some good answers here, respectfully I always find this type of question funny.

Allow me the audacity to ask a rhetorical one:

What is the best way to ensure that my home contractors are not missing deadlines?


See? :-) Why then, has to be that different with any other kind of labour. Of course, there are differences, still.

Cheers!

PS: If you see BIG fonts, I couldn't change the size. :-|