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Archiver > APG > 1999-04 > 0925157131


From: "Barbara Mathews" <>
Subject: APG-L re: report delay
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 16:05:31 -0400


On 26 April 1999 at 12:16 PM, writes:
>Is there anybody else out there that suffers from report delay syndrom[e?]

and, on 24 April 1999 at 11:44 PM, writes:
>...
>Project - The first step for me to schedule properly is to clearly
>define the SCOPE of the initial project with the client.
>...
>As a side note, I think of my time in terms of hard and soft.

I know what you mean, only for me it's the negative reports - the reports
where I report that nothing could be found or that the lineage they are
trying to use is all-out-wrong. I've found that the best way for me to work
on these tasks is to make them as automatic as possible.

For invoicing, I've developed a timelog that also tracks costs. My invoice
then becomes just a typed version of the timelog with the columns added up.
No creative thinking required, which seems to help make it faster to do.

For reports, I've also tried to develop boilerplate setups. I use Elizabeth
Mills' style from an old BCG newsletter. It sets up various issues like the
client's name and address, the question, the limitations, what I found, etc.
I've added a annotated bibliography to this at the end. This is because bad
footnotes are a particular irritation to me and I figure that, if I furnish
the client with all the information for a good footnote, there will be no
excuse. The bibliography also makes a great roadmap into the humungous piles
of documentation that I love to include.

That old problem about not wanting to bill for the time required for reports
has gone away for me with the advent of the laptop PC. Now my report and
research time is integrated. I sit right there at the PC and write the
report as I find and copy each document. It really helps me to process the
material. When I get home, I can edit the report as needed, then print it
out, copy the timelog to an invoice, and send it all to the client within
about 24 hours.

I have learned to separate the invoice from the report and both from a
chatty cover letter. As I work in old files at Dames I sometimes run across
billing or chatty information in someone's 80-year-old lineage file. It
doesn't set so well and I'd rather not have my personal information filed
away for centuries like that. (Of course the billing info is pretty weird,
like $5 for a day of research in southwestern Connecticut in the 1930s.)

When I speak or correspond with a new client, managing client expectations
is my first priority. We work together to find a manageable task, both in
terms of problem identification and cost. Some clients are really relieved
to see that they can maintain some control over the tasks by cutting it down
to small chunks and by giving their go-ahead as we move from chunk to chunk.

My second priority is to set a goal that I am sure I can meet. This is the
other side of managing expectations. That earlier reply about soft vs. hard
time is very much what I am scheduling here. My trips to Hartford,
Connecticut, happen about once a week, so those eight hours are very tightly
scheduled for me. I actually slot people into them ahead of time. When I go
down, I know exactly what I will be doing. As I carry my laptop, this
includes report writing time as well.

So, my advice is to automate the process as much as you can. Set up a report
form and use it so you don't have to invent new stuff for each client.
Integrate research and reporting as one task. And, above all, don't overbook
yourself. That makes it much harder to be on time. It also makes you feel
more like a cog on a wheel and makes the job less enjoyable.

Barbara

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