Price, value and reliability: Where do they meet?

Angry contractor

This has been a frustrating (Internet) few weeks. In late-December, I crashed this blog and in a foolish effort at self-repair, trashed all of its archives. This weekend, in part because a contractor has not fulfilled repeated requests to fix a simple problem with one of our sites, I ran into another DIY disaster, possibly trashing one of our company’s primary business sites,

Meanwhile, relatively expensive contractors building our new site model (see have also failed to deliver in a prompt and reliable manner — a true disappointment because they had performed well previously and, in the web-services universe, we were paying more on the high than low-end for services. (I’m told the work will be completed in a few days. We’ll see. ?The project schedule called for everything to be complete sometime in November.)

Now, this sort of tear-you-hair-out frustration isn’t uncommon in business. I’ve been guilty, as well, of procrastination on important things. Our business has a planning meeting/action item process — and I’ve bounced certain tasks (my responsibility) forward again, and again. On Friday, I decided to clear the deck. The time to complete most of the tasks — about three hours. Geez.

Alas, one task proved the undoing of We asked the U.S.-based contractor, who we have been paying $150 a month plus supplemetal fees, to tackle this responsibility about a month ago. We followed the contractor’s guidelines in using a ticket system. I followed up with further communication. The contractor promised to look into the matter. No action, again. So I tried the DIY solution and, yep, crashed the site.

How do we solve these sorts of problems? Money isn’t entirely the issue. A contractor in Bangladesh working for the unbelievably low fee of $1.00 an hour (really!) is performing more responsively and to a higher standard to others who we were willing to pay $20.00 to $50.00 an hour, or accept a flat rate fee for work that, if done properly (and within “value pricing” models), might have cleared $100 or more an hour. The expensive and unreliable contractors exist in North America and overseas — this is not purely an onshore or offshore issue.

Now, when we experience recurring problems, we should always review our own business practices and operations. Could we be doing something wrong at our end to cause the difficulties? Are we simply experiencing a spate of bad luck? Can we learn from the process?

Here, the story gets quite complex. The bits and pieces of problems we are experiencing with our online products are challenging us to improve and (despite the chaos), all of the pieces are lining up quite well. For example, while I trashed the site, our business plan called for the rebuild of the site in the new design model — and in fact, the $1.00 an hour Bangladeshi contractor has already set the framework up on a hidden site. We’ll just accelerate the process now. The pain: If I can’t get the backup to work, we may have a week or so of downtime on one of our publications’ sites. Somewhat embarrassing — but this is not a national security issue!

Two contractors will shortly lose our business.We will stop the monthly retainer for one, and the other (project complete) will have an uphill battle in expecting any further work from our organization.

I’m reminded as I write this that we must always practice what we preach.We need to respond and serve our clients well, regardless of the external circumstances or challenges. We can do better.

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