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I work for a company that sells an out-of-the-box software, but I recently remarked that our projects are becoming hell, because of our commercial staff that accept the requests from some clients to transform and import data from legacy systems. These requests produce too much pain, effort, scope creep, fixes, and data correction, apart from other project activities.

I am not a supporter of importing data when a company starts with new philosophy and new software. I prefer to start from scratch and if you want to query old data, then mine your backup to get past data to compare.

How can I handle these negotiations to stop accepting these activities even if they are paid? What are the risks to saying no to these activities?

  • I don't think "negotiation" means what you think it means. You're really asking about how you steer business decisions, rather than providing supporting data or raising project risks to senior management. Project management (as a profession) and project management professionals support and inform effective business decisions; they generally don't make unilateral strategic decisions on behalf of the organization. – Todd A. Jacobs Oct 14 at 16:50
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How can I handle these negotiations to stop accepting these activities even if they are paid?

A better question would be "How do I inform the commercial staff about the risk, extra effort, scope creep, fixes, and data corrections that these activities bring to the project?" You don't negotiate to stop accepting such requests, you raise awareness on the impact these activities have on your work. You then discuss with the commercial staff alternatives or better ways of handling such requests. If they know what money they get back versus what effort you put in, they might change things. For example:

  • hiring more people to handle the extra effort.
  • negotiating contracts to ask for more time to do the import.
  • give you more time to work on building some general import mechanism while working less on other project activities.
  • negotiating with clients to provide their data in a format that your application already supports.
  • they might even agree with you to stop offering this option for your clients.
  • etc.

But all of these will be business decisions. You don't get to decide just because you don't like importing old data in new software. That's unprofessional from your part and might not even make business sense for your clients, which gets me to the next point...

What are the risks to saying no to these activities?

Your clients might take their business somewhere else. If they can't use their data with your app then maybe they don't need your app and go to your competition who has no problem with importing their proprietary data. So the risk is that your company looses streams of revenue from the clients you refuse to import data from.

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Don't.

Migration is a commonly asked-for - and provided - service. If your competitors are providing it and you are not, you'll probably suffer more than you currently do doing the migration work.

You have a hole in your (Team's?) skillset. My advice is to fill that hole. Either hire someone who has more experience with migrations, or else expend effort and resources to improve existing skillsets.

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The idea behind a successful business is to supply what the customers demand. The decision to supply shouldn't be made because you find it hard, there's some rework, or other issues. Should be based on whether building and maintaining that capability would be profitable, whether you build it or buy it.

So don't stop those negotiations. The bigger question is if your firm can deliver that value proposition or not in a profitable way.

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