The few people who come here must be thinking “What kind of burr does Dick have up his <butt> ??”  And they’d be right to wonder.

One of the other things that has happened to me recently was a request by someone I know who is Provider of a Commercial Access-based product.  Last week this guy sent me an email asking me if I knew of any contacts for “off-shoring” Access development (??).  Needless to say I guess this guy doesn’t know me very well because anyone who has been around me for a few years would know that a question like that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull (and an especially grumpy old bull at that :-)).

I replied that I don’t know of any and that I’m not a big fan of the concept of off-shoring in general and certainly not in the area that I am offering my services at “First World” prices.  This didn’t really didn’t bug me too much until this MVP thing also happened. Furthermore both of these were on top of one other disappointing revelation I had while visiting the UK, regarding efforts to devalue the work that I do, that is simply too hot to discuss here.

Bottom-line, after going all the way to Holland and getting an enthusiastic response to the exciting new technologies in Excel and Access 2010 I return to find that in a world where suppliers like Microsoft rightfully look out for their own bottom-line and where clients are trying to squeeze more and more out of less and less, it appears to me that we, the people who actually know how to do things with technology, are doing everything we can to devalue what we do every day.  We are simply doing it to ourselves, my friends, by not being proud enough of what we do nor of considering the value that what we can do for businesses is and demanding it.  As I’ve said here before, we will through our own actions create a world where the only people who will be able to afford to be a developer of databases and spreadsheets for use by departments and small to medium business will be single men who live in their parents’ basement -if it hasn’t come to that already.

The consequences for them and for the companies that COULD get value from a Professional class of Excel and Access Developers will be big – but it probably won’t be noticed because no one will even know what was missed.  If an Excel or Access developer leaves the IT forest and gets a job stocking shelves on the night-shift at Wal-Mart will anybody hear, know, notice or care???

Too bad.


About Biggus Dickus

Dick is a consultant in London, ON Canada who specializes in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office Development.
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9 Responses to Off-Shoring

  1. AlexJ says:

    Dick – I heartily agree with you on many points.

    Perhaps the problem is that, for clients to recognize value, we need to (as a group of service providers)learn to describe the value better.

    I have NEVER delivered an application (I’m an excel VBA guy)where the activities of Scope Definition, Data Design, Work process definition and mapping, prototype, test, rollout, training, and documentation weren’t part of the deal. That’s in addition to subject matter expertise and the design skills in Excel/Access. (Not to mention project management, schedule management, support, etc).

    Are we (as service providers) expressing this set of values/skills to our clients? Or do they think they are buying “just a spreadsheet”?

    So there was this “douche” at IATA who wanted to pay $3,000 for a fully operating app, where the scope was undefined, data was incomplete, and his understanding of the scope was “I just want a simple spreadsheet” (“but can’t you just make it do ….”). I told him that his money would cover a rough proof-of-concept prototype. He refused to pay the invoice until the thing was 100% (which would be 10 times the cost). Then he wanted to fight me because I put a time delay password on the file in case he refused to pay the invoice. (Of course I never got paid, and of course I stopped wasting my time).

    Ultimately, the failure was shared – I couldn’t explain the real scope/value set to him, and he was not f*****g listening.

    The value the client percieves is the value of the work that we have sold him.

    (P.S. – There’s even a model that descibes this)

  2. Bob Phillips says:


    That sounds like you failed to agree the terms up front. We all have seen people, but why did you start the work without a clear definition of what he gets, something that he agreed to?

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      Hey Bob….

      That’s always a good idea but frankly people won’t pay for the analysis to come up with a REAL project definition and plan. Remember that the client (like this one) usually thinks it’s “just a spreadsheet” and is usually in a big hurry to “get ‘er done”.

      I am always twitchy when doing my first project for a new client, especially if that client has staked their career on YOUR success. Once you have a project or two at a client the relationship switches to where they need you more than you need them and also, hopefully, they gain an appreciation for your work and value and hopefully you actually become friends and true “partners” frankly. If not then you gotta pull the plug on the client – sad but true. They’d do it to you.

      One thing I try to do is actually NOT create a detailed definition for a project in either Access or Excel and to make the quotation a true ESTIMATE only – with incremental billing the most important thing. That way you can give them what they need rather than what they asked for … and often the result actually costs the client less.

      I love it when a client pays me for all work, when the application is functional and they are using it and I have no outstanding billable hours in the hopper. It’s then when I decide whether to pull the plug on the client (or raise my rates 😉 ).

      The fact is though that I am a sentimental sucker and I try to work with clients who are decent and respect me and my skills and value. I have been very lucky over time (partly I think because I have avoided working for Mom and Pop shops where it can get very personal and quickly unpleasant when their expectations outstrip their money). In Corporations it’s not their own money, so clients tend to make more effort to get me compensated – even if they then choose not to do business with me after (which has seldom happened).

      If the client insists on a bullet-proof contract I tend to pull away because it likely means that they’re going to try to squeeze more out of me than specified anyway. There are a lot of people out there who do not feel satisfied until they feel they’ve WON by screwing you in some way. We all know people like that who play that game with their plumbers and renovators as well. Sad but true.

      Professionalism to me means delivering an honest effort to provide the client with a solution that REALLY does the job for them and that is cost-justified for them and for which I get adequately and fairly compensated. If there is a disconnect between the value of the work and the value to the solution to their organization (which it sure sounds like with Alexj’s a**hole) then it’s red flag and walk away time.

      Remember – a bad job (a “Tar-Baby”) is much worse than no job at all.

      p.s. I LOVE this kind of conversation – I think it’s REALLY as important as talking “Tech” …. We should all talk about this kind of thing here more if “all you all” want to.

  3. AlexJ says:

    You’re exactly right. As a trained project manager I knew better. There was a verbal agreement, but buddy was determined to manipulate the situation. He later offered a contract which, if I had signed it, would have committed my family to indentured servitude. I still laugh about how skewed the terms he proferred were. Live and learn.

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      See my comment to Bob above …..

    • Bob Phillips says:


      Exactly. I am a PM of many years experience myself, so I always get it right (not!). But even though it is difficult to get a watertight agreement, it should be possible to set up terms that allow you to spot the problems and extricate yourself before it becomes too problematical. We will all have had problem jobs where it doesn’t go fully to plan, they are inevitable, but the trick is to not let those jobs finish you.

  4. AlexJ says:

    So this just popped up at TechRepublic – “Four types of clients to avoid”. The guy I was talking about was, amazingly, a little like each of the types described.

    • Bob Phillips says:

      Most of the clients that I have had that have been difficult have never been that obvious. The most common type that I find is the person who very happily agrees the terms and the deliverables, but when you show them something they say ‘but it should do so and so’, or it ‘should do it like this’. This is where it gets very difficult because convincing them that this is not what you agreed to deliver and hence will cost more.

      And the other frequent type is the person who keeps changing their mind (perhaps not unreasonably when they actually see something, this is prototyping in the real world) but fail to acknowledge that this affects the timeline.

      And of course, we are smarter if we recognise our own characteristics.

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      The worst kind of client is the Corporate one who has told his/her boss about what you can do for them and who has given a price and a time-line to that boss. Inevitably the boss will want to add bells & whistles (and in the worst case will have talked to THEIR bosses who also add stuff) but will not consider the effect on the budget or the time line.

      Then your client is caught between a rock and a soft place (you) and will squeeze you for more features for no more money in the same time. This has happened more than once to me but one incident really sticks out.

      But the way I look at it – if I worked for one client (a job) this kind of scenario would happen as well but I would have far less control of the situation. So I accept that this will happen and try to cut my losses where possible.

      This is another reason for NOT having a written contract – although if the projects are small enough in price (in the low 10’s of thousands $ say) then it wouldn’t be worth their while to sue you :-(. Although thankfully it’s never come close to that – yet….


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