"You never know anyone's true character until it comes time to for that individual to part with a dollar bill."
Sometimes, the game is over before it even starts.
I can think of several projects that my firm ended up completing at a loss because I bid the project badly. Luckily, I'm the owner. But, if I was working for someone else, under these conditions, I could see my tenure as their project manager coming to an abrupt close. Of course, I've also heard it said that it's better for the owner not to be bidding on projects, that the owner is too close to the outcome. However, since many web firms begin as one single developer pounding out code from a home PC, I can not see how this situation can be avoided.
My feel for bidding projects comes strictly from experience. Honestly, I used to abhor the process. It made me so anxious because I wanted to close the deal and get the work. Now, I can truly say that I find this process one of the most enjoyable tasks that I have. I love going into new companies and meeting new people. It's great to have the luxury to size up the project and say, "Yes, we'll pursue it," or "No, it doesn't look like a good fit," based on whether I feel that we can adequately meet the client expectations while remaining profitable.
Now, there are some projects that we decide to take on and strictly cover costs because of their portfolio value and non-profit status. This was the case with Battleship cove.com. We took this project on because frankly, I really wanted to do it. I had a family connection to it. My grandfather and uncle had worked on the Battleship Massachusetts, which is now berthed in Battleship Cove, along with the Joseph P. Kennedy II, the Lionfish, and the Russian ship, the Hiddensee. My father, as a young boy, had seen the Battleship launched from the Quincy Shipyard in 1937. Given that my parents were themselves raised in Quincy and in turn, raised my brothers and I there, I felt a strong connection with Quincy shipbuilding history. This was a client, albeit a very unusual one, which I already knew well and was intrigued to learn more.
After we contracted with Battleship Cove, I roamed all over the "Big Mamie" with my sons and nephew and realized that this was the fourth generation of Morses (Morse being my maiden name) to appreciate the old girl, and the third generation to do work for her. I was truly excited about bringing the Battleship Massachusetts and her sister ships into cyberspace with the functionality I knew our firm could provide. Not only was the project high profile, but the people down at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, were wonderful to deal with, making it easy to commit to their project.
Once in a while, a Web firm can do a Web site for portfolio value and strategically, for the long term, it turns out to be an excellent choice. Me, I was just really honored and thrilled to do Battleshipcove.com.
The Internet itself has often been described as a new frontier or, "The Wild West," strictly because of its unregulated nature. Developing on the Web brings its own set of issues. Picture your grandparents watching television for the first time. Something objectionable is shown, and they feel damaged. Who would they feel is responsible? Perhaps it was the network or the television station? Maybe it was the actors? Maybe it's the guy who sold them the television? They don't know. It's a new medium.
So, now, picture the scenario where someone reads something objectionable on a Web site. They feel that it is damaging to them personally and decide to pursue litigation. Who do they name in the lawsuit? If the litigating party does not know the Web terribly well, there's a good chance the party will name the company who owns the Web site, the Web firm that designed it, and any other entity attached to it-perhaps the hosting company.
Is my Web firm responsible for something that a client company chose to put on its Web site? No, I'm not. But, does the litigating party know this? In the time it takes for me to explain this to them in a courtroom setting, I can be out attorney's fees and days of work. I need to have a contract that will stand up in court, which will not only protect my client, but most importantly, will protect me. My contract must stipulate that I will be held harmless should my client come under prosecution and that my client agrees to defend me.
This is only one example of why contracts are crucial and why it's important for a Web firm to invest in one and useit. In this chapter, we'll explore many other applications of such a contract.
Project specifications are an agreement between the client and the Web firm as to how and when the project will be built. This sounds similar to a project proposal. However, a proposal is a short document detailing the scope of work. A project spec is also known as the "project bible." The specification is going to be fully executed by all participating contractors and subs and needs to be as detailed as possible, as this is the tool that keeps clients from asking for work that they are not entitled to under the contract. The specification is written directly after work orders and contracts are signed. The client has a chance to review the specification, and all parties must sign it. Very few Web firms have the resources to write project specifications unless they are already under contract. Therefore, this is just another check and balance along the line to keep the road clear for production.
In this chapter, you will read several project specifications and analyze their significance.