Manage Vendors Wisely — Tips from Project Failure Blog

I’m commenting on the project success checklist at Michael Krigsman’s Project Failure Blog.. My comments are scattered among his notes (excerpted below). I’d love to hear your comments on the details behind some of these factors as we go …

4. Manage vendors wisely — IT projects often involve extensive interaction with software vendors, consultants, training providers, and other external resources. If third-party relationships are not managed well, even the strongest in-house team may have trouble concluding the project successfully.

My opinion is that too many organizations look at bringing in vendors as a passive investment, essentially buying a put to guard against project downsides.  While the theory of “vendor as insurance” is sound, the practice is more problematic.  In particular, weak in-house project teams are prone to relying too much on the vendor. 

When managing both technology and service providers state your expectations clearly. For example, if you want particular milestones to be achieved by specific dates, put that expectation in writing.

No doubt…the concept of a Vendor SOW and Vendor WBS is honored often only in the breach. 

Also, be sure to talk with vendors about their expectations of you. Success comes from partnership, rather than conflict, with vendors.

When strong teams make mistakes, it is because they take the opposite tack: vendors are treated as a foreign body that must be expelled.  For example, they exclude consultants and vendors from meetings, locate them away from the rest of the team, or hammer them on cost and schedule exclusively.  There is no sense of vendors as partners, they are simply a set of undifferentiated suppliers.


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