Hi. I’m Jim Coutu. In addition to running my own software business since 1999, I am a technical arbitrator. Arbitration is what happens when projects at freelance job sites go bad. It is a kind of “project divorce court” where it’s the arbitrator’s job to determine why the project went bad and assign blame (and funds). If both parties cannot agree on how to split the funds, it is the arbitrator’s responsibility to determine who gets the funds. Arbitration is a neutral perspective of project management and arbitrators do not take employer or worker’s side when determining who gets the funds. If necessary, arbitrators will test work to determine if the delivered project has met the contract, and if the contract is valid. In addition, they will also go through the communications between the employer and worker to determine if instructions were not being followed or if the contract changed over the course of the project.

Arbitration is a fascinating look at project management because the judgment comes from a neutral third party who has to look at all parts of the project (project summary, communications, deliverables) in order to determine where the problem lies. In a way, it’s a forensic look in to what “killed” a project. Many times, an employer will come into an arbitration wanting to cancel a project because the “worker sucks”. After asking a few questions like “Did you set a deadline?” and “Was ‘X’ part of the contract? If so, please show me where this was discussed.”, it is clear that there were mistakes made by the employer that could have prevented the project failure.

I’ve arbitrated over 1000 different projects in a wide variety of fields at the time of this writing – everything from simple logo designs, to large software projects, and more. I’d like to believe that I’ve seen every way that an out-sourced project can fail. However, I’m sure I haven’t.