To get your project back on track, clear communication with your vendor is critical. Following the key steps below will help to ensure that both sides are clear about your expectations, that the system will be fit for purpose once implemented, and that your vendor knows how it will achieve this.
1. Agreement between you and your vendor of the expected business outcomes and the process for scoping
It’s critical that your requirements are outcome based, and not a list of technical inputs. As part of the re-scoping process, between you and the vendor, you need to clarify exactly what the business should be able to achieve after the implementation of your IT project, that it can’t presently do. Once you and the vendor are agreed on these outcomes, you can tell them exactly why you’re ‘re-scoping’
2. Check your vendor understands your requirements for scoping
You don’t enter into ‘re-scoping’ activities unless there is a problem, so you need to have documented all the evidence to show what the problem is and its causes. The re-scoping session then is an opportunity for the vendor to look at the issues you’ve raised so they can determine where there are gaps between the target outcomes and present project delivery. They can then take a step back to evaluate exactly what needs to change in order to close these gaps so that your IT project can be delivered successfully. All of which needs to be documented for later use.
Your vendor must understand your organisation well enough to know how to align its configuration and implementation processes for its software, so that:
it can ensure the implementation is fit for purpose, and
it can be a critical friend and challenge you on any areas it does not understand or any objectives it does not think you will achieve.
The documented outcomes and findings from this re-scoping phase will then form the foundations for project re-alignment and change.
3. Re-scoping completed: adjustments to operational processes and requirements
After you’ve documented your evidence and had a constructive conversation with your vendor; you should have identified why you’ve perceived a gap between what you were promised, and what’s been delivered.
If after scoping, you find that your ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ processes and objectives need to change to reach your intended business outcomes, you must make sure they are clearly documented. This will help to minimise any misunderstandings during the implementation of these changes.
No surprises means a constructive relationship, lower costs and a faster realisation of the benefits.
4. Performance management: ensuring on-going clarity
Your requirements must be more than just an input or output based specification. Quantification gives clear direction to the vendor on the what, why, who, how and when of the implementation. This will help your vendor to understand quickly whether your expectations are achievable within your budget and timescale. With this information, the vendor can then ask you the right holistic questions, so you are clear about what you’ll receive, what you won’t, and what compromises you’ll need to live with. By quantifying these outcomes, you’ll have a clear benchmark by which to measure your vendor’s performance. This will help to highlight any future issues with delivery and it will aid all parties in understanding what’s happening and why. This kind of transparency will aid your collaborative efforts and will hopefully stop anyone from saying “oh, well… we weren’t aware of that”.
5. Work out the governance changes
You and your vendor should identify the individuals on both teams who have high moral values and can help drive the trust necessary to get your IT implementation back on track quickly. You may find that personality clashes and particular behaviours among existing board members could be responsible for some of the pain you’re currently feeling. It can be helpful then to restructure the governance board and steering groups to drive the right behaviours, so you achieve the joint outcomes you want.
6. Aligning the contractual documentation
If you’ve been experiencing implementation issues, then it’s likely that the contractual arrangements and schedules you have documented do not reflect the business outcomes you’re aiming to get to. Ensure these are updated and realigned, so there aren’t any material impediments in the contract that might drive the wrong behaviours from either party. The contract terms should follow how the implementation is actually being delivered on the ground, to achieve your business outcomes.
As part of this process, you should diagram the key operating aspects of the contract terms, so that:
(a) the diagrams reflect how the existing systems operate and are being delivered
(b) the contract terms directly reference the diagrams for operating and escalation procedures, and
(c) the contract is very easy for non-lawyers (i.e. both your operational people and the vendor’s) to understand.
In this way, the key aspects of the contract are fully transparent, so neither party inadvertently breaches the contract by trying to do the right thing, and then gets penalised for it.
If it looks like your vendor is failing to deliver a fit-for-purpose system, there are bound to be issues with your relationship. You’ll feel dissatisfied, while your vendor may feel it’s providing more than it intended within the original agreement. So if you’re to have any chance of getting back on track, you and your vendor must be clear about your expectations. This means making sure your vendor and your internal team are clear on your expected business outcomes from the implementation; re-scoping the requirements, to ensure they’ll provide a fit for purpose system, and ensuring that your vendor has a clear plan for achieving fitness for purpose.
If you’re able to get all of these things in order, you can begin to work more collaboratively in order to build the trust necessary to form a lasting, positive relationship.