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I'm the contact point with the customer for project requirements and timeline. However I outsourced the project to an external software house.

The customer has very changing and vague requirements, but the software house need clear directions and a closed contract with all specifications.

I think we have a 50% margin on the project for now, but I'm worried about deadlines. Furthermore I don't know how to synchronise customer and development:

customer now want a 2 weeks checkpoint delivery (on a 6 month project) starting from now, but I don't have yet a feedback from software house about requirements and about their deadlines or even feasibility. So basically I need to agree with the customer some deadlines that have not yet been agreed with the provider.

The only way out I see is to fix arbitrary deadlines with the customer and find excuses when they will not be met...

How would I explain the situation to the software house and which kind of contract should I ask?

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    You are in an orange jumpsuit job - you don't have the minimal requirements to be successful; your only role is to accept punishment when things go wrong. There are risks to schedule, scope and implicitly to cost here. If I were in your shoes I would immediately schedule an appointment with the sponsor/stakeholder/boss to discuss changes to the situation, and revise my resume to seek a new position. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 5 at 12:30
  • Those checkpoints are an opportunity to do risk management. You are a broker, expressing risk information to both parties about the probability of project completion. Your job is to estimate that probability and communicate that probability, and advise the stakeholders on potential actions. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 5 at 14:06
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By contact person I assume you mean project manager as that's the description you seem to be implying. The issue is not your customer or your vendor. The issue is your lack of knowledge and skills in managing projects, which is why you're here asking this question. The problem is, the forum cannot possibly teach you how to manage projects as you're missing, seemingly, everything. What you should ethically, morally, and professionally do is step aside and let the customer find a more appropriate leader.

Adding to the above:

In this situation, I think you need to get more firm with the customer by way of what you need in order to properly plan and commit. By firm, you need to explicitly detail what it is they need to provide you and by when and then commit to when you can return a proper estimate of what can get done (scope), when (schedule), and how much (cost). If the requirements are still "soft", then part of your project is to firm up the requirements through working sessions with the customer before you begin building the product, or adopt a more agile approach--to which I cannot really provide substance due to my lack of agile knowledge.

If those requirements are soft, the type of contract that is most favorable to BOTH you and the customer is a T&M contract. That way, both of you can work together to manage costs.

Then, you need to get your vendor to act more like a partner in this project. Get them a seat at the table so they can participate in understanding what the customer wants and to help estimate everything. You can get into a type of contract with the proper non disclosures and no compete language. I would also flow down whatever T&Cs you have with your customer to your vendor and ensure their sell rates are competitive so that your sell rates on their work are profitable.

Be prepared to walk away. If the customer does not do what it needs to do to be a viable partner in this deal, then find another customer.

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    harsh. Not inaccurate, but harsh for a new contributor. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 5 at 12:28
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    I know. I tried softening but I'm not too good at that. – David Espina Mar 5 at 12:55
  • I don't mind about harsh :-). I don't have much experience at this kind of management (as I mainly managed internal teams), and resigning is not an option as we are only 2 in the company. What I was looking for is some hint about how to manage 2 contracts at the same time, one for customer and one for provider, with different deadlines and requirements for the same project – Glasnhost Mar 5 at 14:04
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    + for the last paragraph, which is, I think, the most important thing that could be said. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 5 at 14:43
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Let's see - you have vague requirements from the customer which in addition wants a checkpoint every 2 weeks. And you have a software house (consultants?) contracted for the job that require a fixed set of requirements.

Have you considered an agile approach to this? Maybe you can take the position as Product Owner on behalf of the customer (if possible) and have the team work two weeks sprints? This will ensure that requirements grow over time and hopefully provide the customer with what they actually need - and sprint demo every 2 weeks will give them what they ask for in regards to control, without it adding any particular overhead.

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