Part 1: The one-off engagement
Have you ever wondered what to expect from a consulting engagement with our team? It’s a complex question, so it’s going to take two blogs. In this first post, I’ll discuss the “one-off” consulting engagement. Next time, I’ll describe the process for a major implementation with multiple moving parts.
What do we mean when we say a “one-off” engagement? Let’s say you want a custom report or statement. Or perhaps you are looking for us to develop some VB scripting that will populate some values in some user defined fields when a certain transaction is performed on a loan. Maybe you need an integration between NLS and an auto-dialer. Or maybe you are just looking for an automated interface to send data over to your general ledger. Any of these would constitute what we would call a “one-off” engagement. Now, if you needed all of them at the same time, that would be a different story, and we will discuss that next time.
In any of these cases, you are going to start by scheduling a call with the director of implementations. He happens to be the author of this blog, and you can reach him via this form. You may also be referred to him (also known as “me”) by one of our trainers or support technicians. On our call, we’ll discuss and determine your needs, the scope of what you are looking for, and the feasibility of your project. You will not be charged consulting fees for this call.
Is There a Consulting Need?
During the initial call, we will discuss what you are looking to get done and how it can be most efficiently accomplished. Sometimes this type of call has resulted in the client being shown a feature of NLS that they did not know existed, and it turned out that they did not need consulting services at all. How’s that for efficiency? Occasionally, a client has asked for something that was just not programmatically in step with the way NLS works, and there was no real feasible way to accomplish the goal. We can’t expect to win them all. Most often, there will be something we can do, and it will simply be a matter of doing a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is worth doing. That value judgement will be for you to make, but before you can make it, you will need an estimate.
I will write up my notes regarding what you are looking for, in NLS terms that will be meaningful to the programmers on my team. I may ask you to read it and approve the language to verify that I have correctly understood what you were trying to convey to me. That will conclude the introductory process, and I will send my writeup off to the developers.
Generally, the developers will come back with an estimate or have more questions that I will relay to you. Once I have a time and cost estimate back from a programmer, I will send the estimate to you, and then the ball is back in your court. You may decide that the customization that you are asking for is not worth the cost we are estimating. This is okay. Don’t worry that you have wasted our time. Allowing you to make a properly informed decision is the point of this process. Once you have approved the estimated amount, your request will go into the queue to await the availability of a developer.
Estimate Approved, Now What?
How long will you be in the queue? Sometimes, when demand is high, it can take 6-8 weeks before development can commence. Other times, when the ebb and flow of the projects resulted in a clear queue, a developer might be available immediately. It is rare but not unheard of.
In this case, the project could be assigned to a programmer the same day that you approved the estimate, and the project could start the next day.
How Long Will the Project Take to Complete?
Assume that your project is not the only one that the developer is working on. The reason for this is that there may be downtime if the developer has a question for you as they work through the coding, and he or she needs something else to work on while waiting for an answer. Therefore, to prevent them from being idle, they need more than one plate to spin. If your project estimate was based on 40 hours of programming work, expect that to be spaced out over two to three weeks. You will only be charged for the time spent on your project.
Once the development is complete, it will be delivered to you. Depending on the nature of the item being delivered, the developer may schedule a Webex meeting with you so they can install it and show you how to run it.
At this point, the developer will not assume the project is completed until you’ve done end-user testing (depending on the nature of the item the initial delivery may have been to a test environment). The developer is keeping you on his or her list of clients until you’re satisfied that everything is working as you want it to. If you do need some part of it to be fixed, the time taken to do that is billable time, but a certain amount of that was already factored into your estimate. This allotted time helps prevent disagreements in case of some miscommunication or misunderstanding regarding how something was intended to work. We make every effort to do the work as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
And that is basically it. That is how “one-off” engagements tend to work. Next time, we will discuss how large implementation projects differ. Until then, stay safe and keep on lending.