How to deal with changing requirements as middle man between customer and provider



  • I'm the contact point with the customer for project requirements and timeline. However I outsourced the project to an external software house.

    The customer has very changing and vague requirements, but the software house need clear directions and a closed contract with all specifications.

    I think we have a 50% margin on the project for now, but I'm worried about deadlines. Furthermore I don't know how to synchronise customer and development:

    customer now want a 2 weeks checkpoint delivery (on a 6 month project) starting from now, but I don't have yet a feedback from software house about requirements and about their deadlines or even feasibility. So basically I need to agree with the customer some deadlines that have not yet been agreed with the provider.

    The only way out I see is to fix arbitrary deadlines with the customer and find excuses when they will not be met...

    How would I explain the situation to the software house and which kind of contract should I ask?



  • By contact person I assume you mean project manager as that's the description you seem to be implying. The issue is not your customer or your vendor. The issue is your lack of knowledge and skills in managing projects, which is why you're here asking this question. The problem is, the forum cannot possibly teach you how to manage projects as you're missing, seemingly, everything. What you should ethically, morally, and professionally do is step aside and let the customer find a more appropriate leader.

    Adding to the above:

    In this situation, I think you need to get more firm with the customer by way of what you need in order to properly plan and commit. By firm, you need to explicitly detail what it is they need to provide you and by when and then commit to when you can return a proper estimate of what can get done (scope), when (schedule), and how much (cost). If the requirements are still "soft", then part of your project is to firm up the requirements through working sessions with the customer before you begin building the product, or adopt a more agile approach--to which I cannot really provide substance due to my lack of agile knowledge.

    If those requirements are soft, the type of contract that is most favorable to BOTH you and the customer is a T&M contract. That way, both of you can work together to manage costs.

    Then, you need to get your vendor to act more like a partner in this project. Get them a seat at the table so they can participate in understanding what the customer wants and to help estimate everything. You can get into a type of contract with the proper non disclosures and no compete language. I would also flow down whatever T&Cs you have with your customer to your vendor and ensure their sell rates are competitive so that your sell rates on their work are profitable.

    Be prepared to walk away. If the customer does not do what it needs to do to be a viable partner in this deal, then find another customer.



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