Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oh, did I forget to mention that?

Soooooooooooo…allow me to give y’all some insight into my non-yarn life, which makes up in filthy lucre what it lacks in warm, fuzzy, fibery goodness.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to put in a bid on behalf of our Enterprises on a database project. Reading through the project description, I said to myself, “Sounds simple enough!”

And then I got a piece of paper and started making boxes, circles, and lists.

See, one of the things we do to determine how much time (and therefore money) a project is going to cost is to throw together a quick sketch of the final product – boxes with table names and relationships, a field list, and an action plan around each of the individual requirements – in other words, how we think we’re going to solve each of the needs the client mentions in their scope of work. Resources, methods, etc.

Even though it is essentially like dashing out song lyrics on a napkin, sometimes it takes longer to put together the bid than to do the work…especially on simple little things like this. It’s actually a little irritating, because I’m thinking, I could have finished the whole dang thing in less time than it takes to tell them HOW I’m going to finish the whole dang thing…

But hey. It’s part of the job, and helps me prevent things like getting ankle-deep in spiders before I realize that by ‘web’ they didn’t mean the Internet. Or that I forgot about 75% of their requirements when I put the bid together.

Yeah. Forgetting 75% of the needed work? That’ll suck on a flat-rate bid.

My quick outline showed a database with four tables, six forms, a handful of queries and three reports. Everything in the bid request matched up to something on the sketch. Simple database, going to administrative staff, might have concurrent use once in a while (meaning two or more people are accessing the thing at once)…the time/difficulty rating on this one is garter stitch scarf on #13 needles in super-bulky yarn, folks.

This is first year stuff. The kind of stuff I was doing back in 19-neveryoumind. The kind of stuff that in more robust economic times we’d be all, Eh, let some kid handle that one.

I figured out how many hours I expected it would actually take us to do each task, doubled that and put out a bid that was still really low and fast. Which felt weird, because frankly we’re used to doing things that take months of work and require servers dedicated to development and complex arrangements to move what we’ve made from development to production. And even more complex arrangements to bring the whole team (which is usually at least six people) together for the Project Accomplished party.

So something that I say, “Sure, I can knock that out in, eh, an afternoon, all by myself” is a rarity.

Then, I got the second bid offer. This is where the client, having received bids and weeded out the obvious losers, re-issues the project to the remaining combatants…sometimes with a few further details.

The further details in this case made me go, Whoa, hang on, waitasecond here…

The cute little database that would be used by “office staff” had morphed into a database-driven website, with multiple login classes, hefty security measures and possibly thousands of simultaneous users. It now had to handle picture galleries, audio/video files and a total of nearly two thousand different fields of entry.

Holy crap.

It needs not just the database built, but the website part as well.

And did they mention the shopping cart part? No? Oh. Well, yeah. It kind of needs to have a secured shopping cart with connectivity to their payment processing service.

Suddenly, this thing has gone from chunky garter scarf to heirloom quality Estonian lace shawl big enough to wrap around bride AND groom made of cobwebs on 0000 needles.


Ya, we’re going to need to revise that bid just a tad.

But first, I need some more napkins so I can enhance the data diagrams…


Stephanie said...

Did you get the sense that they really don't know what they are talking about (in the first project description) or was it a weed out thing? Because those sound like two completely different projects. And if the people writing the descriptions don't realize that? I cannot imagine working with them.

Siercia said...

Damn hell! Did you about wet yourself when you saw that?

I wonder if they make the first bid simple so they can weed out the idiots who can't do the work and the idiots who think that basic work like that is a license to rob a company that doesn't know better stone blind?

eclair said...

I'm betting that first sketch was probably drawn up by someone who will never actually use it or have any idea what the users actually do when they sit at their desks. Having received your nice low quick bid, the sketch was passed to someone who knew what they really needed/wanted and who rewrote it so it has a passing acquaintance with reality.

And they they will be surprised that your revised bid will be so very different to the original. After all, they only added a couple of little bits and pieces...

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way: at least you learned the bad news before you accepted the contract.


Julie said...

Thank heavens for the yarn-related comparisons! Your audience now understands, thank you.

SuperM said...

Oh my! That sounds an awful lot like what happens in my world.

"Did we say we wanted XXX? Now that we think about it, we need to do YYY + ZZZ + AAA +.... in time XXX. Can you do that?"

The project has just morphed from a pair of stockinette stitch socks into those fantastic thigh high lace stockings in the most recent issue of Vogue.

Those are the times I end up preferring an hourly project.

21stCenturyMom said...

Whoa - you even doubled the bid and it still went BOYOYOING! Nice of them to leave out a few tiny details in the original RFP.