Since I can recall, my mom has had a coffee mug sitting on top of her fridge that reads "If it wasn't for the last minute I wouldn't get anything done." Only since going off to college and entering the workforce have I come to fully appreciate the truth stamped on that kitchy old mug.
Unfortunately that's a mind set a lot of us at Integrity come across all too often as a web development company. Don't get me wrong, I'm one of the most talented procrastinators I've ever met. But, when it comes to getting any project done on time and within budget, a little stress could be a good thing.
The web application development industry is a funny one. Any given day I could be pushing it to take 15 minutes to grab lunch or I could be refreshing my email every 5 minutes waiting for work to come in. Since the first time I ever read that coffee mug, I've certainly learned a lot more about stress. We know that high stress levels can take a toll on your mind and body, but I believe that a little bit of stress - when managed properly - can certainly be beneficial in the professional world.
At Integrity, we actually have a clause written into our contracts that the client is responsible for any additional cost related to their failure to provide promised materials by the agreed upon time. And, without any explanation, I can see why some clients might find this clause a little startling.
Often clients, and perhaps a lot of people outside of the web application development industry, don't realize that pausing a project is actually harder on the timeline and budget than working through whatever issue is at hand and continuing.
Let me give you some of the biggest reasons why:
Each project Integrity takes on is delicately balanced in a very long schedule of concurrent projects. Each team member must plan their work schedule out months in advance to make sure that they're available to complete their responsibilities on each project in the given time. When one single project's timeline changes, all of these timelines have to be refactored, too.
Because we "frontload" our projects by carefully scheduling and planning before any production work begins, we have to use up even more time when those schedules and plans have to be updated to accommodate changes.
Nobody likes to cancel dinner or weekend plans to work, but sometimes it can't be helped when a national product is due to launch on Monday and the client didn't sign the final approval forms until Friday at 4 p.m. Exhaustion and rushing to complete something - a.k.a. too much stress - can result in more mistakes being made and tasks taking longer than usual to complete. Plus, it's really not fair or fun for anyone involved.
No matter what stage a project is in, communication is huge. And it's also one of the most overlooked time consumers on a project. Even when a project is hanging in limbo, communication must be continued with both the internal team and the client so that the gears can turn smoothly once decisions have been made.
For these reasons and more, Integrity's special contract clause exists as a positive stressor to motivate both clients and ourselves to live by the projects' timeline and budget. After all, time is money and someone always has to pay for the extra.
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Ensuring the things you rely on will work as expected cannot be a matter of chance, it must be part of the plan. This requires ongoing maintenance, updates and upgrades.