“When do you think our servers will ship?”

That’s always the warning shot, fired over my bow. My customer didn’t tell me something, and weeks later they finally got around to listening to me. Now they don’t like something I had to say, after they agreed to all of it.

“If you refer to the timeline I gave you several weeks ago your physical servers will be ready in two more months,” I reply. I always tell customers that it takes at least three months to acquire physical hardware. Two weeks to figure out what to order, by gathering facts, performance data, and sizing information. Two weeks to actually get it through their purchasing people. Four weeks to receive it from the vendor. Two weeks for data center people to get it racked, and two weeks for the sysadmins to get it configured with OSes, storage, etc.

“Well, uh, we talked about that and we think that’s a little long, and we need it to happen faster.”

“I see. What part of it do you think can be shortened?”

“Well, the month it takes for the vendor to ship the server, it doesn’t take a month. We got those other servers in less than a week.”

“The vendor says it could take up to four weeks to ship them, so that’s the figure I pass on to you. While it sometimes takes less time, I try to set people’s expectations based on my experiences. These are custom server builds so they’ll take a bit longer, and those other servers were end-of-quarter specials so they were probably pre-assembled. Plus with a four week estimate we won’t need to panic if one of the machines shows up at three weeks and is dead on arrival or missing a part.”

“So how long do you think it’ll take for them to ship us those servers?”

“Four weeks.”

“You just said it could take less time!”

“I don’t work for the vendor, so I don’t know how much time it will actually take. They say four weeks, so I say four weeks.”

“Can’t you call the vendor and have them do it faster?”

“Listen, if you need this to move faster it’d be easier to have your data center guys and your sysadmins cut you a break and not take a month.”

“Oh, no, those guys won’t budge. When they say it takes two weeks they mean it.”

5 thoughts on “Expectations”

  1. It’s funny, because I just had that conversation internally.

    My Customer:

    “When do you think we’ll have this brand new initiative off the ground? I know we just brought it to you 15 minutes ago, but we need to act immediately.”

    “Approximately six weeks.”

    My Customer:
    “How can we get it done faster?”

  2. Hilarious. I deal with this all of the time.

    I tell people that it will take X days and they always complain it is too long.

    I work with a lot of small businesses with online shops and sometimes get frantic calls about their SSL certificates expiring.

    I say … “Didn’t you get the renewal notices?”

    They reply, “Yes, but I did not have time to deal with and forgot about. Can you get this done now?”

    “You should have received a notice at 60, 30, 15, 7, and 3 days out. Plus a really urgent sounding one the day before, the day of and the day after the expiration date.”

    “Yeah, I got those but thought it could wait. Can you get me the new cert now?”

    “You mean right now?”

    “Yes we are losing $100’s of in orders because people do not trust the site.”

    “Really? You are losing $100’s in orders.”

    “Yes, no telling how much money we have lost.”

    “I recommend we buy a multi-year certificate so this does not happen again.”

    “No not right now, I don’t want to spend any more than I have to.”

  3. @Ian — yes, the servers shipped months ago. I usually don’t blog about recent events but instead choose to wait a few months until things calm down on both sides. That way I’m more fair, and people who find my blog and see their own stories are less inclined to be upset by them.

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