The first day of work at a new client’s site can be like the first day of school: You’re excited, perhaps a bit nervous, and you don’t know quite what to expect. But most people don’t have horror stories about begging for a desk on their first day in class. Unfortunately, some consultants can’t make the same claim about their first day on a client’s site.

Finding an inadequate workspace and improper equipment derails your schedule and starts off your relationships with the client and their employees on the wrong foot. TechRepublic members told us their horror stories about first-day surprises, and we’ve compiled a client site preparation checklist to start your project off right.

You could contact the client to ask the questions that apply to your project, or you could make this information-gathering process a regular part of your contract procedures. Once you’ve tailored the list to meet your firm’s needs, you can fax or e-mail it to any client for whom you’ll be working on site.

Why use the preparation checklist?
You might be tempted to believe that you can cover all the bases in conversations with your client, but our members provided plenty of examples to the contrary. In a discussion about the checklist, member DavidKS posted his experience as an example of how the checklist might have saved his team some time and energy. During one project, he was baffled as to why none of the work his team accomplished between midnight and 2:00 A.M. was being saved. When he asked, he was told, “That server is taken offline every night at midnight for maintenance. Yeah, someone should have told you that.”

To add to their frustration, his team was forced to take a taxi back to their hotel one evening because they weren’t told the parking garage was locked at midnight.

These types of issues are addressed in the client site preparation checklist. Some consultants think this is an excellent idea, and Bob Feldsien, a custom software consultant from St Louis, agrees. He said he’s been contracted many times to perform work without a computer or access to servers.

Advice for preparing for onsite work
In an e-mail to TechRepublic, Gerald Smith, who works for DataSmith Business Consulting Ltd. in Ontario, provided a list of steps consultants can take to ensure a smooth first day on the job:

  • Have the client notify all employees, the IT department, the building security, the HVAC staff, and the cleaners (who may lock doors) that the team is coming and how long they’ll be around.
  • Have the client appoint a contact person at least one week in advance to work with and cater to the consultant team.
  • Have network IDs and passwords assigned for the team at least two days before the consultants’ arrival.
  • Send an emissary a day or two in advance, or at least phone ahead and discuss site preparation with the appointed contact.
  • Send as much software as possible in advance to be loaded onto the machines you’ll be using. This will allow more time to check for problems.
  • Send a diagram of how the team wants the office arranged.
  • Check the Internet for nearby eateries and delivery restaurants.
  • Print or buy a map of the area.
  • Take a list of after-hours contacts from your home office and secure one from the clients’ office.

You’ll find more important issues that should be addressed before you begin a new project in the client site preparation checklist. If you have something to add, feel free to send us an e-mail or post your comments below.