Embedded Technology Consulting
Fitting Solutions To Systems
How Parsec Does Business

Parsec watches out for the client, even when they aren't aware of it.

The Client Really Does Come First

Everybody has heard this trite, tired, overworked mantra forever. For a consulting engineering house, however, it is life itself. If we don't watch out for our clients' concerns then they will seek other engineering support. Here's how we keep our clients happy, well fed, and successful.

Protect the Client

Parsec is concerned for the business health and welfare of our clients. To that end there are various instruments and ethical definitions we use. Here are a few:

We Create Work Made for Hire

Our work is commissioned and authored under contract. With a work for hire, the author and copyright owner of a work is the entity who pays for it, not the entity who creates it. The premise of this principle is that a business that authorizes and pays for a work owns the rights to the work. When a consulting firm creates a "work for hire" the work product is the property of the client, not the consulting house. If the consulting firm wishes to use the work for hire in the future, they must obtain a release or license to use the material. The copyright and patent rights to a work for hire automatically belong to the client.

Parsec treats all work as property of the client even before the work is completed. Copyright notifications and IP security measures are in place long before the work is actually handed over to the client.

Intellectual Property

A legal term describing ideas, concepts, words, processes, and ways of doing things that can be protected under the law. IP can be a magazine article, a drawing, a computer program, or an industrial process.

Privately owned IP can be used only with the permission of the owner of the IP. Private IP can be bought and sold (i.e., the rights to own the IP can be bought or sold) as well as the right to use the IP. The right to use IP is conveyed through a license.

IP may be protected by copyright (written words, music, graphical displays, some technical drawings), patent (processes, machines, tools, physical objects) or trade secret. Trade secrets are protected by law from theft, but the owner of a trade secret must protect the trade secret through non-disclosure agreements, licenses and contracts. Upon free and voluntary disclosure to the public by the owner, with no restrictions on sharing the information, a trade secret is no longer protected.

Keeping this in mind, Parsec is very conscientious about maintaining IP security. We only share client IP with consultants who already have a standing Non-Disclosure Agreement in place. In point of fact, Parsec only uses consultants and service bureaus with whom we have history or whom we know through a close partner.

Nondisclosure Agreement

A contract in which a business promises to treat specific information as a trade secret and not disclose it to others without proper authorization. Nondisclosure agreements are often used when a business discloses a trade secret to another person or business for such purposes as development, marketing, evaluation or to secure financial backing. Although nondisclosure agreements are usually in the form of written contracts, they may also be implied if the context of a business relationship suggests that the parties intended to make an agreement. For example, a business that conducts patent searches for inventors is expected to keep information about the invention secret, even if no written agreement is signed, because the nature of the business is to deal in confidential information.

Parsec keeps bulletproof NDAs in place with consulting firms and service bureaus to make sure our clients' IP is secured.

Noncompetition Agreement

An agreement in which the consultant agrees not to compete with the client by either working for a direct competitor or by developing or deploying a competitive product or service, all within a specific geographical limitation and for a specific period of time. In some states, such as California, courts view noncompetition agreements with disfavor and will not enforce them unless the restrictions are very narrow. In other states, courts routinely uphold them.

Parsec is very much interested in generating repeat business. One way to promote this is to make sure the client knows they don't have to worry about their trade secrets ending up being used in a competitor's product. Parsec avoids even the appearance of conflict by staying away from directly competing firms for a specified period after completing a contract. The minimum for a non-compete period is one year, but this term may go longer if the client has reason to request so.

The Consulting Services Client Manifesto

Like other engineering houses concerned with the client's wellbeing, Parsec uses a formal manifesto to make sure the client knows what he's getting in to. Compare this declaration of intent with those of other engineering firms to see what reduction of uncertainty your develpment budget is buying.

Article 1: You have the right to an overall plan.

Parsec will tell you what can be accomplished in the next week, or month, or year. You will know how much that will cost.

Article 2: You have the right to see progress.

From the onset Parsec will be producing functionality that you specify. This functionality will be in the form of "working" components in a "working" system, proven to work by passing repeatable tests that you specify.

Article 3: You have the right to change your mind.

As development proceeds, you will be able to substitute new functionality for old, based upon the original system architecture. You will be able to change the relative priorities of the features of the system, dictating what should be done first and what should be done later, based upon supporting system infrastructure. (See the paper Where Software Comes From for more on these dependencies.)

Article 4: You have the right to know about schedule changes.

Some things will turn out to be easier than expected and some things harder; therefore, the schedule is going to change. You will be informed of such changes as soon as Parsec knows about them. You can then exercise your business judgment by choosing among options for reducing scope so as to restore the original date. You can cancel further development at any time and be left with a useful, working system that reflects your investment up to that point.

How You Pay Us

Milestone Basis

Parsec and the client determine what work is to be done, in what sequence, and to what schedule. The client pays Parsec a retainer. Parsec begins work.

At the completion of the first milestone the client pays Parsec an agreed-upon fee. If the client is satisfied then work proceeds to the next milestone. This cycle continues until the project is complete. The client may extend this working relationship through mutual agreement with Parsec.

Project milestones are determined by the requirements of the end product. Milestones can only be set once the requirements have been settled, a set of specifications fixed, and the architecture and design created. Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to know how much work and time a particular milestone will require.

Projects may include a milestone for creating a specification, an architecture, or a design. Each successive milestone can only be determined once the foundational work of the preceding phase is complete. (See the paper Where Software Comes From for more on these dependencies.)

Ongoing Engineering Support Basis

Parsec is "on retainer" to the client. Parsec and the client determine what work is to be done on a short-term basis. Typically work is aimed at concluding a cycle in one or two weeks (note: not a "sprint"), but Parsec may also work on long-term projects such as system architecture and integration plans on an hourly basis.

Discovery and pure research projects are almost always done on an hourly basis, since no one knows how much effort is involved in coming to any conclusion. (That's why they call it "discovery.") See "Consulting Services Client Manifesto" above for more on work billed on an hourly basis.