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ZCO Complaints - They took me for $90,000 - and gave me non-usable crap.

I Samuel Wahnon, nor my associate Sam Burton are experts in software development. The company we hired Zco, a self-proclaimed developer of “enterprise level software solutions” has drastically overcharged us for the development of a simple digital tool and delivered us a complete lemon. The product simply doesn’t work on any level. Frankly, Zco has been dishonest in their description of their capabilities and has cost our company roughly $90,000.00, nine months of work, and significant opportunities in marketing due to a delayed product release that may never happen for budgetary reasons.

They charged us $90,000.00 for a project that they had no business undertaking. At the end of the project, we had to hire an independent developer to analyze the source code delivered by Zco. They were embarrassed to tell me what they found.

Their report was as follows:

The product is built without any standards or framework. This means that the code is VERY difficult to improve and subsequently more expensive to improve. Zco was hired to build us a foundation for our product that can be built upon. Instead they have built something that will get worse as we try to improve it, and will cost more to improve, the more complex it becomes.

The product is not properly built for automated testing. Automated testing is a standard in software development. It’s how developers ensure that the code they write doesn’t conflict with previously written code in a given program. Our product CANNOT be tested this way, and as such suffers from a problem known as “regression”, in which when one problem is fixed, several more arise. Regression is fought by automated testing, which is not possible on our product although I was repeatedly assured that automated testing was being performed on the code.

The problem of regression will only get worse as we build upon our product. Ultimately, the product will have so many conflicting issues and bugs that it will simply crash. Zco either knows this and plans to fleece clients like us, or they are extremely negligent in their responsibilities to understand the technologies they claim to specialize in.

Zco promised us in writing that the product would work across various digital platforms. It doesn’t. It doesn’t work on any platform, but is especially problematic on smartphone and tablet. Modern web tools are no longer built for individual platforms. They are created with what is known as “responsive design”. We were told that this would be prohibitively expensive for us and discouraged from pursuing it. In fact, the framework that makes this possible costs about $30, and is easily customizable by any actual software professional. Did they know this and lie to make more money, or are they simply not professional developers as they say they are.

3rd party plugins are a common practice for software developers. They make it possible to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ so to speak. All plugins chosen by Zco (3rd party image galleries, etc..) are non-functional and outdated. As the developer, they have a responsibility to their clients to research and choose proper plugins that will be easily integrated and work according to modern standards. The tools Zco chose on our behalf and without consulting us have no place in the toolbox of a professional development company.

The list of technical problems with the product we were delivered is exhaustive. The more troubling aspect of our project with Zco is the price. After inspection by a professional, it seems that Zco makes its money by charging customers to have something built from scratch when it is readily available for a much lower cost and simply requires configuring. We are not able to salvage any of the work that Zco performed, so we must develop our product from the ground up with new developers. Our new developers have quoted the project at $4800.00 as opposed to Zco’s $90,000.00. I was personally sickened by the gap in quoted prices.

Further more, Zco’s contract includes only a vague statement of work (referred to as SOW), which contains fundamental inconsistencies with what was delivered. Below is a breakdown of the inconsistencies and critical malfunctions of the final outcome of said project.

1. Scope of work - This section does not actually detail a proper scope of work, however it does define some of the acceptance criteria for the product. It was agreed by Sam Wahnon and Zco that the product would be functional across several platforms however, the product delivered was never functional on any of those platforms. The agreed upon platforms include:
a. Desktop browsers: firefox, internet explorer, safari and google chrome.
b. iPhone 4 and above with iOS 5 and up.
c. Android phones with OS 3 and up.

2. Thought their contract states a fee “not to exceed $85,000.00” Zco consistently requested more funds to improve the site’s malfunctioning code. Even now, we are still receiving messages from Zco suggesting more spending for fixes and functionality that is missing from our product.

Our definition of malfunctioning - because the statement of work in Zco’s contract only consists of a list of compatible browsers, we are forced to point to that aspect of the contract to protect our company’s funds, however by way of illustrating the problems with the delivered product, the breakdown below describes the critical problems with Zco’s delivered product.

Critical malfunctions and failures for the program IMQR:

The program was built without testing. After having the product reviewed by 3rd party development experts (Dmitriy Yudin and Damian Crichfield), we have determined that no automated testing was performed on Zco’s work. It is possible to determine this because the way Zco built our product makes automated testing impossible.

Automated testing is absolutely critical to modern software development. When a developer writes code, often they will cause problems elsewhere in the system. Without running an automated test after each batch of work, adding a new feature will cause existing features to break. This problem is known as “regression” and ultimately results in a total system failure.

Automated testing has been a standard in software development for many years and all professional developers are aware of this technique. In our case, Zco chose not to build our product with this standard. We imagine this was to cut expenses on their end.

Our product was always intended to be built upon. Zco was involved in extensive meetings where new features were discussed with the intention of integrating them into the product at a later date. The lack of automated testing capabilities should have been explained to us at that point. Without automated testing, new features would eventually cause a system failure. This fact should have been articulated to us rather than hidden. In the later parts of the project, we experienced many instances of regression without proper explanation from Zco.

The product has never worked on any level including on the agreed upon platforms and browsers. Zco’s insistence that the product is “good enough” is not a satisfactory conclusion and their negligence and lack of responsible behavior in this project has cost us significant time, money and marketing opportunities that will have a long lasting effect on our company’s ability to operate.

Our product development must start over from the ground up

The source code that Zco has delivered is unusable for the reasons stated above. We cannot salvage any of the work for repurposing in our product development and our development process has restarted from scratch as of 12/19/13. To further illustrate the negligence and irresponsibility with which Zco estimated this project, our new estimated project cost is $4800.00 for the same functionality. In 24 hours we have seen more functional features created, tested and deployed than in 9 months of work with Zco. We cannot determine if Zco is a criminal organization that preys on individuals new to digital development, or if they are simply ignorant to the current standards in the industry in which they claim to be experts. The fact that we cannot use the Zco code in any way leaves us with a total loss in the form of funds, time, materials, and significant interruption of our business.

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