Moments of truth in IT programme management (1/3)

By Jim Patience

Date 19 December 2009 Tags

The greatest risk to any programme or project is at the very start. Getting things wrong at the beginning leads to a much higher risk of failure – it’s very tough to recover from a bad start.

Big programmes are fraught with risk. The Standish group recently reviewed a series of business critical programmes and only 28% were completed on time and budget.

So what can programme managers and sponsors do to ensure they get off to a good start? It’s all about mobilisation, conditioning for success at the outset.

Moment Of Truth – Supplier fails to deliver

Supplier performance failing to meet client expectations – we have seen it many times. It will happen at different stages of a programme for the different sorts of suppliers – it may take longer to surface problems with an outsourcer than for a consultancy, an integrator or a software provider.

But the reasons are almost always the same:

  • You have chosen the wrong supplier and/or
  • The contract is bad for one or both parties.

Cut through the hype

We all know that it is often difficult to cut through the sales hype and validate the claims of the supplier. How do you see behind the “sales face” of the suppliers and judge whether their ambitions, values, behaviours, skills, experience and support will enable them to deliver to your expectation. The traditional RFP or ITT process invariably falls short. Typically such a process requires the buyer to have worked out the answer and specified it with great clarity which then presents the suppliers with the challenge of “ticking all the boxes”.

This checklist response can often mask many of the things that lead to the failure in delivery – you never really find out until you start working with them.

Be clear on outcomes

And that’s precisely what we think you should do. As a buyer, don’t invest in working out the precise answer yourself and specifying a detailed set of specific demands. Rather be very clear about what your outcomes need to be and then work collaboratively with each supplier on your shortlist to design the solution, define how it will work and craft a contractual framework that suits both parties. You will get to know the suppliers and what it’s like to work with their people, products and organisation. You will leverage the assets of the supplier organisations to design the right solution for you and you will work out jointly how to make it work. You will work together to create the most appropriate contractual framework.

And the real test that you’ve both got it right? The contract stays in the drawer.

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