Managing and evaluating a strategic contractor’s performance data is essential for you to ensure that value for money is achieved and that projects are successfully delivered.
A key component of this process is direct online access (not a download) to the contractor’s source performance data as this enables you to produce your own reports, in what is usually a much more insightful format, providing you with greater confidence in the authenticity of the data.
Strategies for Unlocking Contractor Performance Data
This article will discuss strategies for obtaining that direct online access to a contractor’s source performance data while addressing potential concerns contractors often have in order to ensure a continued collaborative working relationship.
Establishing Clear Expectations and Contractual Agreements
It is vital to start any relationship off on the right foot and in the case of data access it is important to have a full and clear understanding of what you need and why, and to build this expectation into the very foundations of the relationship from its inception.
1.1. Defining Data Requirements
When engaging a contractor, it is crucial to work together to define your data requirements and desired level of access. Where possible, you should always clearly outline the specific data needed, including the scope, format and online access to an unfiltered/unmodified contractor source.
This clarity and openness will help contractors to understand your expectations and facilitate a more productive discussion about data access.
1.2. Incorporating Data Access Expectations into Contracts
You may well already have a great operating and strategic relationship with your contractor. But relationships (people/circumstances) change over time due to many factors – whether it is just a change in each side’s representatives, or something more substantial such as your contractor organisation being acquired by another whose values and culture may be very different to that which you are used to working and collaborating with.
Separately, there are many management layers in contractor organisations and some of them may not be thrilled at the level of performance transparency your direct access to their source data will provide you with, especially if this prevents them from first ‘filtering’ and ‘cleaning’ the data.
It is important to account for future changes in the relationship over the medium to long term. That is why, despite the potential for it to appear ‘clinical’ – especially if you are already in a collaborative strategic relationship where you talk through issues and resolve them together – it makes sense to ensure your contractor is contractually obligated to provide the access you need by incorporating explicit data access provisions into your contract.
The contract should include clear terms and conditions regarding data sharing, ownership, and confidentiality. By explicitly addressing data access, you can establish a strong contractual foundation for obtaining the desired level of access if and when changes in the relationship occur and new contractor representatives appear not to be engaging quite as collaboratively.
Building Trust and Collaboration with a Contractor
Successful working relationships involve an appreciation and sensitivity towards your partner’s position, expectations and worries. Data can clarify and inform positive change, but it also has the potential to be misused or shine a light on evidence your contractor might prefer to be left undiscovered. This is why it is vital to recognise their anxieties so you can determine ways to alleviate them.
2.1. Open Communication
Organisations that currently work openly, honestly and transparently with contractors already know that open communication is essential for fostering trust and collaboration. You should maintain regular communication with your contractors, discussing their concerns and expectations regarding data access. By engaging in open dialogue, you can better understand your contractor’s perspective and address any issues or concerns that may arise.
2.2. Addressing Contractor’s Concerns
Contractors may be reluctant to provide direct online access to their source performance data due to confidentiality, competitive advantage, or data quality concerns. You should actively work to address these concerns, offering solutions and reassurances to alleviate any apprehensions. This may include agreeing on data protection measures, anonymising sensitive information, or providing assurances that the data will be used solely for the purpose of evaluating performance as a learning tool to improve services, rather than be used as a stick to beat the contractor with.
Implementing Data Protection Measures
How is your data security strategy likely to meet the expectations of any contractor who may be prepared to provide you with direct online access to its information?
3.1. Data Security
To protect the contractor’s sensitive data and address concerns they may have about confidentiality, you should have already implemented robust data security measures. This may include using secure online platforms for data sharing, encryption and strict access controls. By demonstrating a commitment to data security, you can reassure your contractor and build trust in the data-sharing process.
3.2. Data Use and Confidentiality Agreements
Another method you may employ to ensure that the data is safe with them is to establish data use and confidentiality agreements with your contractor. These agreements should outline the terms and conditions for data sharing, stipulating how the data will be used, who will have access and any restrictions on its use. This can help alleviate a contractor’s concerns about data confidentiality and demonstrate your commitment to protecting this information.
Providing Support and Training for Data Management
In most circumstances, it’s important to give in order to receive. There will be occasions when a contractor benefiting from your expertise can return those benefits to you many times over. Here are just a couple of examples of this in action.
4.1. Creating Data Management Capacity
If contractors lack the necessary resources or expertise to manage and share data effectively, you should consider gaining access to independent subject matter expertise and providing support and training to the contractor. This is usually only necessary for smaller contractors (or smaller sub-contractors to the prime contractor), as many larger prime contractors will already have appropriate expertise in place to facilitate this. This support and training can involve offering guidance on data management best practices, providing access to data management tools and software, or delivering management capabilities and will help you to facilitate a smoother data-sharing process.
4.2. Collaboration on Data Quality Improvement
The clarity of the data you receive from your contractor is key to its usefulness. It is, therefore, important to work collaboratively with contractors to improve the quality and accuracy of the source data contained within their systems. This may include offering feedback on data quality, identifying areas for improvement and providing resources or support for data quality initiatives. By working together on this you can foster a more cooperative relationship and ensure you get direct online access to reliable, accurate performance source data.
Incentivising Data Sharing and Transparency
Even after you make every effort to understand a contractor’s worries and takes great strides to alleviate them, some contractors will still require an additional nudge in the right direction to allow you appropriate, direct online data access.
5.1. Performance-Based Incentives
You can also think about incentivising contractors to provide direct online access to their source performance data by linking data sharing and transparency to performance-based incentives. For example, you could offer financial rewards, contract extensions or preferential consideration (in the public sector – this would be subject to competitive fairness, equity and value for money constraints) for future projects to contractors who demonstrate a commitment to data transparency and provide the desired level of access.
5.2. Recognition and Awards
Recognising and rewarding contractors who excel in data transparency can further encourage data sharing. You could establish recognition programmes or industry awards to highlight contractors who provide direct online access to their source performance data, demonstrate best practices in data management and maintain a high level of data quality. This can create a positive feedback loop, motivating other contractors to follow suit and to also prioritise data transparency.
Negotiating Data Access Agreements
As with all agreements, tread lightly to ensure the best outcomes and always remain mindful of the limitations, expectations and preferences of your collaborative contractor partner to ensure that this process will lead to a stronger working bond between you.
6.1. Establishing a Data Access Framework
To formalise the process of obtaining direct online access to a contractor’s source performance data you can develop a data access framework. This framework should outline the roles and responsibilities of both parties, define the data access process, and specify the data sharing standards and protocols to be followed. Having a structured framework in place can help streamline negotiations and ensure a smooth data-sharing process.
6.2. Setting Realistic Expectations and Timelines
During the negotiation process, you should set realistic expectations and timelines for data access. While it is crucial to obtain timely access to performance data, you should also consider the contractor’s capacity and resources. Providing sufficient time and support for the contractor to adapt to new data-sharing requirements can help ensure a more successful outcome and minimise potential disruptions to the project.
Monitoring and Evaluating Data Access
After your contractor has agreed to share its data with you and together you have defined a working process, you will need to review and refine both data and processes on an ongoing basis to ensure that they continue to be accurate and optimised.
7.1. Ongoing Data Access Review
Once a contractor has granted direct online access to its source performance data, you should regularly review and evaluate the data-sharing process. This can involve assessing the quality and timeliness of data provided, as well as monitoring compliance with the agreed source data access framework. Regular review and evaluation can help identify any issues or areas for improvement, ensuring that the data-sharing process remains effective and efficient.
7.2. Feedback and Continuous Improvement
You should maintain open lines of communication with contractors to provide feedback on the data-sharing process and discuss any concerns or challenges that may arise. By engaging in continuous dialogue and working together to address any issues, you and your contractors can enhance the data-sharing process and foster a more collaborative and transparent relationship.
Gaining direct online access to a contractor’s source performance data is crucial for ensuring assured and ‘uncontaminated’ transparency. This further helps to assure your executives that the data you are using is accurately reflecting value for money and effective performance management.
By establishing clear expectations, building trust and collaboration, implementing data protection measures, providing support and training, incentivising data sharing, negotiating data access agreements and monitoring the data-sharing process, you can work with contractors to obtain the desired level of access.
These strategies will not only help you produce more accurate and tailored reports but also ensure a more transparent, accountable, and collaborative relationship between you and your contractors, ultimately contributing to better project outcomes and long-term success.