29th October 08
I’ve finally been paid in full by Megasoft. I received the cheque from Megasoft by courier and it cleared. What still remains a mystery is what actually transpired.
30th September 08
I received a call from Megasoft and they have asked me to send in the invoice so Megasoft can process the payment. When I asked about what went wrong, I was told that it would be disclosed to me only once the payment had been processed. I have not yet transferred the final high-resolution PDF file for the Annual Report to Megasoft and they haven’t asked for it either. I’m curious to know what was actually going on behind the scenes.
Read the comments! ‘RB’ is a fictitious name and so is their email. Someone from Megasoft? Maybe. If they believe I am wrong, why don’t they bring it up and discuss? I’ve tried my best to discuss it with them. What’s the need to hide? Chicken.
I had an opportunity to work on an Annual Report design for Megasoft. Megasoft is a trans-national Intellectual Property driven, product-based technology company that focuses on the growing Telecom sector. It also offers Outsourcing, Off-shoring and back-office services to other product companies in the areas of Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) & and Application Development & Maintenance Services ( ADMS).
The General Manager from Megasoft got in touch with me in the last week of April 2008 and the requirement to design an Annual Report that could also serve as a marketing tool was stated. Some of the pre-requisites I put forth before starting a project are that I need to be indirect touch with the final decisions makers and they need to be committed to the project. I also need a completely filled-in creative brief as well as a 50% advance.
I also had a short telephonic interview with one of the Directors on the Megasoft Board who was apparently spearheading this design engagement. It was determined that while I would be interacting directly with the General Manager of Megasoft, the project would be receiving feedback and approval from the Director as well as the CFO at Megasoft.
Megasoft’s Annual Report so far, had been designed by their in-house design team and was more an informative tool rather than a marketing tool. It was determined that the Annual Report would be divided into two sections : one, a more ‘brochure-like’ overview of Megasoft as a company and the other section would contain the financial details according to laws and regulations.
During the initial discussions, Megasoft also expressed interest and having me design and develop their website. Which was a thrilling proposition for me as it would be a website for a company that not only is well-known nationally in India, but is also listed on the NASDAQ and has a large global presence. the website would be dealt with once the Annual Report design engagement was delivered.
The filled-in creative brief as well as the advance payment [ a mutually agreed upon 30% instead of the usual 50% ] were received at the end of the first week of May and further clarifications and inputs kept arriving intermittently as the project progressed. There were numerous email exchanges for EPS files of the Megasoft logos as well for the logos of its subsidiaries / partner companies – XIUS-bcgi as well as Blue Ally. Since we wanted to include photographs of the Board of Directors in the Annual Report, we also tried to determine what the best source of those would be but since we were on a short timeline and existing head-shots were not good enough to be used, we decided to go without photographs of the Board of Directors.
The First Draft
Download the PDF of the first draft. It is a 267KB file.
After a couple of days, the content for the financial section of the Annual Report was received. This had still not been finalized as they were still being audited and there were still some versions to go before it could be called final. Once this was received, it was determined that the Megasoft Annual Report for 2008 would run into more than 80 pages and the same was conveyed to the client and it was okayed.
By mid-May I had the first draft of the design section of the Annual Report sketched out and emailed it to the client. Further discussion and feedback help us to ascertain the look and feel that the client wanted to present in their annual report and we looked at annual reports of a few competitor companies. This helped to drill down and focus the visuals further. The process of evaluating visuals and more ideas took another week when I presented another draft of the design section of the Annual Report to Megasoft.
The Second Draft
Download the PDF of the second draft sketches. It is a 1.85MB file.
COVER OPTIONS for the second draft.
Based on the feedback for the second draft, I also requested the General Manager to kindly provide me with visuals / imagery that Megasoft thought would be a good fit and we arrived at visualizations that would represent ‘various flavors’, ‘agility’, ‘technology’, ‘convergence’, ‘vibrancy’ and ‘innovation’.
Visuals received from the client
In terms of the project direction, I could still sense that we had not achieved focus and were not on the same platform. I also realized [ belatedly of course ] that the communications and feedback loop had been occurring only between the General Manager any myself and Megasoft’s Director and CFO had not been involved at all. I took the initiative and emailed the drafts to all three and requested specific feedback and used some feedback guidelines. This was done four days after the second draft was emailed to the GM.
I did not hear from the client for almost ten days and followed up with another email re-iterating the importance of focused feedback. They got back to me immediately [ the Director had been out of the country ] and it turns out that the Director preferred to work with Draft One with a specific focus on the keyword ‘agility’.
Within a couple of days, I also had a more concrete version of the financial information section. This was on 11th of June.
A few formatted pages from the financial section were emailed to the client as a PDF for a TypeFace Check.
I sent out an email to the client on the 12th of June informing them that I would be unavailable from the 20th till the 30th of June – I would be on vacation. I also informed them that I would prefer to take a non-working vacation but would be willing to work on the Annual Report if Megasoft had tight deadlines. [ The background was that the Annual Report was initially wanted ready in February but delays had pushed the deadlines and I was hoping I was not working with any tight deadlined. ] The client reverted with the final deadline date as 23rd June – which was the date for the Annual General Meeting where the Annual Report was going to be used.
Since we still had eight days before I left for the vacation, I believed it would be enough time to close. By June 14th I had sent out the edited and formatted financial section to the client for review [ each time I edited the financial section, it had to be thoroughly scrutinized by Megasoft’s Financial team so as to prevent any errors in numbers ]. In previous discussions regarding the design section, the concept included a milestone theme where we wanted to add a page-by-page account of how Megasoft had to gotten to be where it is now in the industry internationally. We were waiting for Megasoft’s Director to get back with the finalized timelines so those could be incorporated in the design.
I assured the client that if I had the timelines by the 18th of June, the Annual Report would be ready to be delivered to the printer by the 20th and they would definitely have the copies ready before the AGM on the 23rd of June. [ I was not collaborating with the printer, Megasoft has their own printer resource. ]
Till the 20th of June I was receiving feedback on the Financial Section and was constantly re-sending edited versions for review to Megasoft’s Financial team and the GM. The General Manager informed me that he was still waiting for internal feedback on the design section of the Annual Report. He was kind enough to push through internally at his end to ensure I could be ‘blessed’ with a non-working vacation! I told the client that I would be carrying my lpatop with me and would be available whenever required – as soon as we got the milestones from the Director, I would immediately incorporate the same into the high resolution PDF and email it to the GM. This communication and reassurance took place on the 20th of June.
Final draft sent for approval
Download the complete 92 page Annual Report [ from cover to cover ] as a PDF file – 1.73 MB in size.
PROJECT GOES TO HELL
I received no communication from Megasoft till the 24th of June, when I sent them an email asking whether the AGM had happened as scheduled and telling them I was still available if required. I still not receive any communication from Megasoft and I sent them another email on the 30th of June asking them if everything was alright. These communications were solely addressed to Megasoft’s GM.
For all of July, there was NOTHING from the client. When I called up Megasoft’s GM on his phone, there was no reply and my two earlier emails had not received replies either. On the 2nd of August I wrote to them again asking them about the status of the Annual Report as well as the Website and mentioned that I was ok with it if they wanted to close the engagement now. I had perceived that things were going to be slow because the final decision maker was Megasoft’s Director with whom I had had a telephonic conversation at the start of the project and who was always traveling and almost never there to give feedback.
In my email to Megasoft on the 2nd of August, I also mentioned that I had delivered the Annual Report as had been expected and the balance was due from their end. I did not CC this email to the Director or to Megasoft’s CFO as I did not want to unnecessarily cause trouble for the General Manager.
The GM called me up immediately and also informed me via email that the website project was on hold and that they might not go ahead with it. The GM also informed me that they would revert to me within a week’s time regarding the Annual Report. This was on the 4th of August.
When I still hadn’t been reverted to on the 16th of August, I wrote them another email asking for an update. I wrote another email on the 18th of August. Both these were addressed solely to Megasoft’s General Manager. When I still hadn’t heard from the company on the 21st of August, I wrote an email to all three concerned ‘decision-makers’ and on the 26th of August, Megasoft’s GM replied to my email telling me that since I had “…moved it from my office to the Director’s and CFO’s office, we will have to wait for their response.” And on the 27th I wrote to the three of them once again requesting for the Director’s direct phone number so that I could at least determine what was going on. What were they thinking? What was the status?
On the 5th of September I wrote another email to all three of them and asked them if I’d missed something or done something wrong – was my communication wrong? Was I using the wrong words? Was it too much to expect ONE reply to my many emails?
And now it’s today. 17th of September.
To get my own peace of mind back on track, I decided that this project was closed. They can keep the balance payment. At least I will stop waiting for a reply to my emails. Before posting this blog entry, I sent an email to all three concerned decision makers at Megasoft informing them about my intention to create a short case study about this particular project.
DISCLAIMER : Images used are for reference only. This post is in no way a reflection of the functioning of Megasoft as a company. I am not an employee with Megasoft and neither am I well-versed with the Telecom industry / sector. In fact, I’m quite sure that Megasoft is one of the industry leaders and good luck to them with that. This blog post is based only on my interactions with them for this particular Annual Report design engagement and is not meant to berate any of the three decision-makers at Megasoft. I have deliberately left their names out. This case study is meant to show how even the best of assignments that start out on a high tempo, with enthusiasm and a good creative brief can turn into a nightmare. This project is classified as “PAYMENT PENDING” and closed from my side. If there is an update, I shall accordingly update this blog post. SHIT HAPPENS sometimes I guess!