How do you define a bug?

Sent by Jonathan Stark on December 9th, 2018

When people hear me talk about offering a “bug free guarantee” on a project of non-trivial size, they often have a hard time imagining how that could possibly be profitable.

I get questions like:

The short answer to all of these questions is this:

It doesn’t matter if you priced the project right.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane...

Think of a past project that was brutal. A project that you probably consider a failure. Either you felt like you lost money, or the client felt like they got screwed, or both. Think back to your mindset when doing the estimate. Think back to the nervous excitement of the kick off meeting. Think back to the moment when you realized that you had underestimated the amount of work. Think back to the first time you let an out-of-scope request slide because it was “small” or “no big deal”. Think back to the meeting where you realized that you and the client had made different assumptions about a key feature or module. Think back to the day when the client started raising their voice and making demands. Think back to the feeling of being afraid to click on an email from the client.

Sucked, right? I’ve been there. It’s hell.

Now... think back to the estimate you gave for this brutal failure of a project and then... multiply the dollar amount by 10.

If the client had accepted the proposal at 10x, would the project still have been brutal? Would you still consider it a failure?

I doubt it.

The problem with most “failed” projects is not scope creep; the problem is razor thin margins.

If you have good margins, you don’t need to worry about minutia like what is a bug, or where it originated, or who caused it. You’ll happily just fix the small stuff for “free” - and any big stuff will be so comically unreasonable that you can easily push back by saying something like “That might be nice for the next version, but it clearly has nothing to do with the project that we’re currently working on. I’ll capture the idea and we can revisit after we declare victory on the task at hand.” 

Bottom line:

If you’re worried about bugs, you’re not charging enough.

Yours,

—J


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