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Ask Slashdot: How Do You To Tell Your Client That His "Expert" Is an Idiot? 384

Esther Schindler writes "It's a danger for any consultant, and for most inter-departmental internal project staff: To get the work done, you need to work with someone else who supplies expertise you lack. But when the 'expert' turns out to be the wrong person how do you tell the client (or boss) that you just can't work with that individual?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You To Tell Your Client That His "Expert" Is an Idiot?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:22PM (#46234051)

    Most experts are idiots at what they claim, but an expert at earning trust regardless of their knowledge. So be careful of these people, as they are quite aware of their lack of expertise and their fragility. Gain trust of the client first before taking on people your client trusts.

  • Re:Its Easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:47PM (#46234263)

    Terrible advice. There is always money in confusion as long as you write the contract properly, which should always be the case.

    Because contract have never been torn up in court.

    I used to know a consultant like this. Would write incredibly one sided contracts, still 100% legal but very one sided, which only idiots would sign. It worked for a while but when one project fell through this idiot client hired a non-idiot lawyer and he lost more than he earned in his career. House, investments, car, even furniture. The guy went from driving a Porsche 911 (not cheap in Oz) to a old Huyandai Getz in a matter of days and hand to declare bankruptcy just to keep the Getz.

    Writing unfair contracts is an easy way to get sued. Even fair contracts can land you in a lot of shit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:50PM (#46234293)

    As a consultant it is *my job* to work with the client and their people. Incompetent or not, it is still my job to work with them.

    If you are complaining about this as a consultant, you have no business being a consultant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:37PM (#46234625)

    So you used a bogus email addy when you established your account here?

    He or she posted anonymously, you stupid unobservant fuck who needs obvious things explained to you.

  • Re:You Don't (Score:4, Informative)

    by scottbomb ( 1290580 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:27AM (#46235927) Journal

    So you go back to step 1: the problem is badly described. The Systems Development Lifecycle dictates that you, as the new help solve the problem. Start at wherever there is trouble. In the scenario you describe, it looks like we need to go back to step one fix the root problem: it is badly described. We cannot build any system to high user satisfaction that is badly described. One can only start over and build from scratch. If that's not possible, we will have to break the problem down into manageable parts and dig deeper for root causes and solutions.

  • Not that easy (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:42AM (#46235977)

    Not every country has as strong corporate veil as the US does. For example, where I live, if you are the sole owner of the corporation nothing is going to protect your personal assets if there is a hint you didn't play by the rules. You can't just pay yourself out of corporate funds and then declare you are out of money and debtors get nothing. Lawyers would get the corporate veil dropped in a matter of minutes. Playing with shell companies just doesn't work very well in here. Doesn't mean some won't try. And a commen trick is to include a company registered outside of the country somewhere in the owner chain, it at least slows the investigation down a lot.

    It has both good and bad sides to it.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @03:31AM (#46236125) Journal

    It is like using references, I have learned that if a company asks for them, they are idiots. Nobody EVER calls them and if they do they are basically saying "I have no clue from interviewing how good this guy is, so I got to ask someone else". Stellar performance right there!

    The solution is relatively simple, see job interviews as a two way process. They are interviewing you BUT you are ALSO interviewing them. And gosh darnit, you can reject THEM as an employer!?! Shocking ain't it.

    When I read a site like clients from hell, (not linking because it has an annoying nag script) I can't help but feel that a lot of the time all the problems could have been avoided if the complainer had just said at the interview "you are an idiot, I am not going to work for you".

    If you spend sometime in your field you should know the warning flags. If a client/employer for instance is looking for a lead developer, the existing code base is a pile of steaming shit such as you have only seen in every single job before where the existing lead had to finally admit he needed an extra hand (translation: needed to be taken outside and shot for the good of humanity). If they are looking for a replacement team for the software project, the existing code doesn't (exist that is, what is there is maybe some scripts that on some days, does something but nobody knows what). If they are considering a rewrite, the servers are on fire and the the sys admin has slaughtered the entire office and is sniping from the rooftop.

    You get to regonize the signs after a while. Does the boss spent the entire interview bitching about what gone wrong before? Translation: He is to busy still raging and hasn't yet learned from the mistake which was HIS, for hiring the wrong people.

    There is no handover period because the previous guy already left? Translation: Make a sentence with rats, ships, sinking. Question: Do you want to come on board? Consideration: At least the ship is rat free.

    If the ship is on fire and they are haggling over budget with the fire-fighters, translation: they spend all their money on flammable lifeboats and have nothing left for you. Another form of this is if they talk about how much money already has been sunk into the project and/or whining about recovering investment. Fact of life: money sunk into a project that has failed is lost, deal with it. A projects worth is NOT measured by how much money has been lost on it.

    And hey, you can ignore all of this and think YOU are going to be the perfect employee who can deal with idiots... and I will point to you and say "this guy is going to be on a rooftop someday, sniping at the police while chewing on someone's leg". Either that... or... you are one of them... got an MBA?

  • Re:Its Easy (Score:2, Informative)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @04:13AM (#46236245) Homepage Journal

    No, but a judge can and will throw out a contract if HE thinks it is unfair in the here and now. If it's unfair enough, he can do it outright, if it's just sleezy, the benefit of every doubt will go to the other party.

  • Re:You Don't (Score:2, Informative)

    by bdh ( 96224 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:42PM (#46238861)

    (This is almost a universal truth. You can quit your job, and come back as a consultant and the same management will fall all over itself doing what you recommend. You just have to give them long enough to forget you recommended the same damn thing as an employee).

    It's not always necessary to wait that long.

    "Advice is worth what you pay for it", appears to be the rule.

    I worked at a Fortune 50 outfit, working on choosing a vendor for a major contract. Since the contract would eventually be worth at least seven figures, we spent about 18 months doing competitive analysis and proper due diligence. Ten vendors (A-J) were whittled down to five (A-E), and then finally to two vendors (A and B), who each ended up running their systems on site in the final execution round.

    Vendor A wasn't popular politically, but won on technical merit. Vendor B was a serious player, and had previously held 80% of the market in that segment, but (a) had fallen behind technically, and (b) their presentation had truly been Keystone Kops level bad, unfortunately. They simply didn't take it seriously; they expected to win on name recognition, so they basically just phoned it in.

    Ultimately, my customer selected Vendor A. I had to write a competitive analysis for my boss to justify my rankings, and I wrote about 20 pages, detailing the scoring criteria I used, my observations and analysis, etc. Some of the vendors were extremely interested in this (vendor C, in particular, since they just missed the final round by a whisker), and my customer approved my giving each vendor a subset of my report. They'd each get the criteria used and the evaluation of their bid, but not of the other vendors. I added a recommendation section to each, of the "this is what you'd have to do in order to win the bid" variety.

    Vendor B basically told me/my customer what we could do with this analysis, since "they were the vendor of record for 80% of the industry", and we didn't know what we were talking about, etc. Vendor C, in contrast, flew up two guys (one business guy, one tech) to take me out to lunch/dinner and get a Vulcan Mind Meld with me; their approach was "we came in number three, what do we need to improve to be number one".

    A year later, Vendor B was sitting at 20% of the market, and unlikely to hang on to that, as both Vendor A and Vendor C had passed them. And so, they brought in a consultancy firm to do a competitive analysis. Said competitive analysis cost low six figures to produce, took a team to generate, and the report was passed around at their board meeting, before being sent down from on high to the troops.

    A friend of mine was at Vendor B at the time. He compared my (free) analysis with the multi hundred thousand dollar report. The difference? Mine lacked "a leather binder, buzzwords, and spelling mistakes". The most important section, the recommendations, were now commandments from on high.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye