My web guys haven’t delivered. What do I do now?

It happens across all service industries and the digital services industry is certainly not exempt.

Despite all the painstaking work put into briefing, discussing, deciphering and documenting your web project, what’s been delivered is not what you had in mind.

And your provider is not providing any answers that look like coming close to resolving it.

In the meantime, your competitors are getting the work you should have got had your website or project been up and running the way you intended.

It can be a painful, gut-wrenching scenario, but unfortunately one that’s all too common in what is a relatively immature and unregulated industry.

So what can you do to get your project back on track?

The answer to that depends on where your project has gone wrong. I’m certainly no lawyer, but many years of industry experience have taught me some useful lessons on dispute resolution. So the following tips may help save you time, money and heartache.

1. Is it salvageable?

If your web professional has got their act together and created the site in something resembling professional practice, there’s a strong chance that the work that has been created to date is still valuable – no matter which technology it’s built in.

Most web projects are like building a house: You start with foundations that are built on to create a finished product. So there’s every chance that at least a good proportion of the completed work can still be utilised in getting to your finished deliverable.

That is unless the fundamentals are wrong – such as the wrong planning or the wrong choice of ‘materials’, in which case you may have to start from scratch.

If the documentation is clear and the web provider takes responsibility, it may well be salvageable. If not, you may be in for a bumpy ride.

Provider ‘lock-in’ an issue

The biggest difficulty with salvaging a project is where you are ‘locked in’ to a certain technology that few, if any, others can work on.

From the outset this can be avoided by getting independent advice on the technology component of your project. However, if you have already committed funds and time into creating something half built with this technology, you may well have to find a way to resolve it with the provider, or risk salvaging very little indeed.

2 .Where did the project go awry?

Most providers would not be in business if they continually flouted good practice, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t uncovered a flaw in the way they go about things.

It’s tempting in this case to simply write off the provider’s competency with the entire project. But that is rarely the case.

If you can identify exactly where the disputed issue arose, you may well be able to negotiate a satisfactory resolution, instead of simply throwing the baby out with the proverbial.

3. Do they have other team members who can take over the job?

Sometimes the issue leads to such a stalemate that you no longer either have the confidence in or want to work with the individual concerned.

Again, that needn’t mean abandoning the entire project. They may well have a co-worker who can continue to work with you. If not, they can often move part or the entire job to another provider. Design and development professionals can often work with others on larger project so may be prepared to introduce you to another who can pick up from where they left off.

Obviously though, the incumbent will need to be paid for the work that has been completed – unless it is entirely unsatisfactory and off brief.

4. Is it worth getting mediation?

If these steps all fail to resolve the issue, you can always try going down the mediation path. Most state government departments offer business mediation for only a few hundred dollars for each party.

And often an independent third party may be all that’s needed to take the heat out of a dispute and create some constructive resolution. I’ve had reason to go down this path and can vouch for its effectiveness and potential cost savings.

But if the sum involved is not large, it may not be worth even this expense.

Putting it down to experience

If you have exhausted all avenues, and the project is simply not worth the effort and expense of salvaging, it’s better to move on as fast as you can

What’s important here is not to lose faith in your project objectives. Just because you had one bad experience doesn’t mean that there aren’t others out there that can make it a reality.

In business there are occasions where we just have to take it on the chin and move on before it takes even more time and energy out of you and the business.

It’s important to recognise this and focus on what you can take out of the experience before embarking on a further attempt.

This will hold you in good stead for not only future web projects, but for any complex service project you need to embark on.

Have you had a bad experience with a provider? Without naming names, tell us about it below and what you did to achieve resolution – if it was ever achieved.

Caveat: This article is intended only to provide general overview on dispute resolution. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. We attempt to ensure that the content is current but we do not guarantee its currency. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content. 

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.




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