Who Follows the Rules?

In a recent discussion with another Laboratory Informatics consulting company, we were talking about the problems some services groups have with regard to following the customer’s rules and with working with others as a team (as opposed to spending all their time promoting their own company and refusing to work with others, to the detriment of the customer’s project). Recently, I saw a couple of things that are related to this discussion that I wanted to mention.

A Good Idea
One services group that I recently spoke with actually has a clause in their contracts with subcontractors that insists that those who sign it will follow all the customer’s rules and will work as a team, or something to that effect. Even though this does not ensure that this will happen, it gives the person signing it a heads-up that this issue is important to them. Of course, follow-up to check that the person is acting this way is required, too, but this clause sets the precedent that some follow-up wouldn’t be unexpected.

Make it Mandatory
On one project I worked on in past years, the customer made it clear that anyone working with them would follow the rules or they wouldn’t continue to be working with this customer. Recently, I began working with a new customer who has something even better: before I set foot on the project, the customer insisted I read a document that stated the basic rules and, in several prominent places, said something explicit to the effect that they require you to follow the rules or to leave, more or less. Writing rules down and making people read them is the best way to be clear on intentions.

Plenty of customers complain to me that their services group, whether from their software vendor or from some other services group, does not try to follow their rules, whether they’re safety rules or project documentation rules. Often, I tend to discover that they just expect the people coming in from the outside to “know” the rules because they’re “common sense” or because “everyone has these rules.” Balderdash! You can’t expect anyone to know these things unless you tell them what they need to know. Take the effort being wasted on the angst about them not following the rules and put it toward communicating those rules to everyone (do NOT tell a single person and ask them to “pass it on”).

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

2 responses on “Who Follows the Rules?

  1. A good rule for a client in these circumstances is try not to deal with a service company that has much more financial muscle than you do. As long as *your* business is important to the service company, you have a good chance of overriding any of their “standard practice” nonsense. I’ve seen two projects (both the other side of the pond, so I feel safe in mentioning them!) where things have gone seriously belly-up because the client went with one of the big boys to provide services, and said big boys worked according to their standard practices, which weren’t compatible with getting the job done as required. Trying to work with them was an absolute nightmare, they just didn’t recognise the existence of anyone outside their team except for the client staff, and even then, they insisted on a single specified contact.

  2. Don’t do business with people you don’t trust. I just felt this common-sense business rule relates to this situation and it surprises me how often both customers and services groups ignore this cardinal rule, only to end up regretting it.

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