How to Hold a Customer Hostage Part I

Purely fictitious for the fun of exploration, this submission explores what it looks like when vendors of a product and/or service effectively hold a customer in a form of stasis - never really delivering, never really finishing, and never really providing enough understanding for the customer to be happy, sad or equipped to decide to stay or leave - just unfinished, bleeding money. Because of the size, this post is broken into multiple parts.

Part II
Part III
Part IV
Final Report

Here's what it looks like:

On January 1, 2000 - BioRecognition Co. (BioReCo) sends out 5 RFIs to various vendors asking them to research and bid on a project to build a software and system that does real-time facial scanning, collection and recognition activities as people walk through an airport security checkpoint.

By January 10, 2000 - BioReCo has 4 responses, reviews them, prioritizes interest, and schedules meetings with each vendor - 2 per day, 2 consecutive days. All meetings go variably well and two vendors are dismissed on the spot and two notified for a follow-up meeting with more details.

By January 20, 2000 - BioReCo chose a vendor to research and develop the system in question based upon the professionalism of the reps at the meetings, resumes with flash-bang components, bench depth, big-name past customers, well manicured presentations and materials, on/off-shore resource mix ratios thereby theoretically allowing BioRec to manage costs of acquisition to their liking. A contract for 30d was signed utilizing 3 people at an average $100/hour ~= $72,000.00.

On February 1, 2000 - The engagement began with a 30d+/- quick assessment of the project which would deliver one document containing a scope, mission and objectives, and a project plan for the first 90 days. All planned work completed as scheduled and the need for a project as communicated by the customer was validated. A new contract for 90 days was signed leveraging 10 people at an average $100/hour ~= $720,000.00.

On March 1, 2000 - Requirements elicitation commenced with tiger teams, and geographically distributed meetings requiring constant travel, calendar adjustments, and team building activities. This phase of activity was to deliver the superset list of requirements, followed by a gap analysis document against existing industry solutions, revisement of requirements (prioritized), and a statement of work containing a high-level estimate of time, cost, and resource needs with an associated first phase project plan.

On June 1, 2000 - The requirements elicitation work concluded with a superset document being constructed composed of industry and customer expectations, and a list of additional new ideas to help set them apart from competitors. A base project schedule was constructed as a list of ordered tasks according to application architectural components v. the functional requirements, a timeline was estimated based upon the schedule, and costs were calculated based upon estimated environment and resource needs. The company knew this was the path to walk and signed a fixed bid contract for the entire project schedule, resource list, and associated cost without knowledge of risks, issues, contingency, actual resource costs, prioritized requirements for delivery, or a clear picture of what "it" would look like when "done". Step 1: Prototyping an architectural framework and purchasing base infrastructure.

To date cost of acquisition: $792,000.00 + expenses
To date time elapsed: 5 months
To date return on investment: 6 documents (some >50 pages)
To date project perception: "It must be really hard to take this long."