I am a software developer at the outsourcing company in Europe (outside EU). Recently, the client asked to have somebody online during the weekend before the launch of the product (client plans to add content to the website product and fears critical issues could be found).

That request has come two days before the weekend (actually, today). To be able to do so will require changing the weekend plans of developers. Additionally, the client has issues with planning and trying to push new features on the last day before release. We are hardly coping with managing those requests.

My current view is that the weekend on-call shouldn't be done. Is it the correct decision? How do I politely express my concern to the client?

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    Is there anything in your team's contracts about being requested to perform overtime? – Erik Jun 1 '17 at 11:34
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    Perhaps simply ask your team. Maybe a team member would jump at the chance to be on call and earn a little extra pay this period. Perhaps someone just wants out of the house for a bit over the weekend... or perhaps someone's weekend plans fell through and they wouldn't mind being on call. It sounds like you're assuming it would be an issue with your team... – SnakeDoc Jun 1 '17 at 16:59
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    Isn't clear what is your question. Are you concern about please your client or change your developers working schedule? – Juan Carlos Oropeza Jun 1 '17 at 18:26
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    As others have stated much depends on the relationship with the client. I would be inclined to say no. As for the new features being added right before release, that should absolutely be a firm but polite no! If it wasn't in the project specification documentation, it doesn't get done. They are asking for free features that they did not pay for. It can also be detrimental to features they did pay for. They should not even be asking for new features right before release. Shame on them. – Sam W Jun 1 '17 at 18:27
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    This is the part where you tell the client "sure we can do that, for $OUTRAGEOUS_SUM per hour, since it's not in our contract". The answer is almost never no, merely a question of what makes it worth it to the parties involved. – Jared Smith Jun 1 '17 at 18:58

My current view is that the weekend on-call shouldn't be done. Is it the correct decision? How do I politely express my concern to the client?

In general, on-call happens, and it does happen on the weekend. I've done it before big deployments. Sometimes, the big deployment happens during the weekend. Usually, this is scheduled months in advance. Asking someone to go on-call for the weekend right before the weekend is not a nice thing to do. If the person has already made plans that cannot be easily changed without expense, I think it's fine to say (as an example)

I've made travel plans that cannot be refunded at this date. If you would consider compensating me the cost of my weekend plans, I'd consider doing the on-call.

I know people who have made that offer (and they were serious, they were going to cancel their trip) and the client chose to delay the "urgent" situation until the beginning of the next week rather than pay for someone's weekend travel plans.

Of course it's up to you. If you have plans that you do not wish to cancel (for whatever reason), I would go with

I have already made plans this weekend, and I cannot cancel them.

You don't need to give them reasons, and if they really demand, tell them it's "personal". It's really none of their business anyway.

And it must be made clear to them that in the future, any time they wish to schedule work outside of regular business hours, you will require two (or three, or whatever you feel is reasonable) weeks of advance notice or you will simply be unable to guarantee availability.

the client has issues with planning and trying to push new features on the last day before release.

This seems like a much bigger issue. Is the client aware that they are putting this project at risk by pushing new changes this close to their deployment?

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  • Thanks for the answer. Yes, the client is aware that pushing changes right before the launch is a risk, but still wants all that last-minute polishing. – Toshakins Jun 7 '17 at 10:15

My current view is weekend on-call shouldn't be done. Is it correct decision?

That depends on the company and the relationship with the client.

Where I worked, if the client requested someone to be on-call, then someone was on-call - even if that request came late in the week.

But perhaps your company's relationship with the client is such that you can say "No" and it won't matter.

Talk to your boss or whoever owns the company-client relationship and ask if it would be okay to decline. If it is, have the most appropriate person (you, a project manager, customer support, the salesperson, etc.) talk to the client and apologize for not being able to fulfill their request on short notice.

If it isn't already clear, make sure both your team and the client understand how much notice must be given for such requests in the future. And make sure there is a process for granting exceptions (there will always be exceptions).

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    Thanks for the answer. The point about handling such requests in future is really valuable, didn't think about it. We don't want to just say 'No' without expressing the reasons behind. – Toshakins Jun 1 '17 at 11:25
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    Just say yes for a payment of say a 1000 euro and double time TOIL if you get called – Neuromancer Jun 1 '17 at 19:19
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    "That depends on the company and the relationship with the client." Absolutely. I was once working with a consultant (at his office, not mine) on a Friday afternoon, when his boss stuck his head round the door and said "Just letting you know the link to XYZ is working now". The consultant told me, "That means I'll be working late tonight, plus 18 hours on Saturday and 18 more on Sunday. But nobody will expect me to be at my desk first thing on Monday morning!" – alephzero Jun 1 '17 at 22:07

The client is asking something that is outside of their contract with your business, and your business would be asking something that is outside their contracts with their developers.

At this point, it is pretty much all down to goodwill by all those involved. Your company could try to convince some developers to be on call, or they could tell the client "sorry, but this is not a service we offer". Likewise, your developers could decide to change plans and be available over the weekend. They could also say "sorry, but this is outside of my contract and not something I'm willing to do".

Depending on the approach of each party involved, relationships could sour and threats could be issued over this, or it might be taken very easily either way.

I don't know the circumstances, but if an organisation is bad at planning and makes these kinds of requests frequently, my personal answer (both to my company or to a client) would be to say "Sorry, but this service is not part of our agreement. We could renegotiate terms if you feel this is something you need, and maybe we can come to an arrangement that allows it for this weekend, but I cannot promise that."

I might be more willing to do it if this was a rare occurrence, but this seems like a good time to bring out the motto of some of my system administration colleagues: "A failure to plan on your end does not constitute an emergency on mine."

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  • Thanks for the answer. It is the first time client asks to do a weekend shift. – Toshakins Jun 1 '17 at 12:03

The "adding new features at the last minute" isn't really a workplace problem but a software development problem. As a software developer, I would say "are you completely bonkers"? But since you posted on workplace, you would put that into slightly more polite terms.

Again from software development / business point of view, releasing on the weekend is optimal because the smallest number of customers will be affected (if the client's business is different, they should choose a different day). But that should be planned, telling you two days before is ridiculous.

If I was the person talking to you and the client, I'd tell the client "If you want to include those extra changes, you're on your own. Without these changes, you will understand that many of our developers have made plans for this weekend that don't allow them to be on call. If we change our fees to plus then I may be able to convince them to cancel their plans. By the way, what are YOU doing on the weekend? "

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It is essential to get the request, and the information about the difficulties it may cause, to a high enough management level.

Depending on the strategic situation, a sufficiently senior manager might be able to offer concessions to employees, such as extra paid time off after the launch and/or pay for being on-call, that will be sufficient to get some volunteers.

The trade-offs involved need knowledge of the risks of not having on-call personnel and the costs of getting on-call personnel.

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Seems like the greater issue is not having someone available just before a launch date, which seems reasonable, but accepting the other last-minute requests for new features. THOSE should be refused as "too late for this release."

Having said that, asking for additional weekend hours, while "reasonable," according to me, doesn't necessarily mean "free."

If there isn't a specific documented process for defining features for new releases and how (and when) they get added, that process should be formalized, ASAP.

Most probably, if features are already well-planned, developed and tested, the urgency of having someone on call, as well as the likelihood of them needing to put out fires, will diminish.

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