Managing Vendor Deliverables
Whether you are managing an outsourced development project or installing vendor supplied application software, it is imperative you properly manage the vendors efforts to ensure a successful project implementation.
Each project will be unique based on its size; cost; duration; resources involved; level of complexity; and level of criticality. Following the recommendations below will lead to a successful installation and create a solid foundation for communication after implementation.
These steps establish internal alignment to the project objectives as well as set the baseline for oversight of the initiative.
- Develop a contract that provides a clear representation of each party's responsibilities. Establishment of a contract provides a mutual basis the on-going business relationship. As such, ensure items such as: definition of terms, performance criteria for payment; staggered payment schedules based on deliverables (if possible), and grounds for termination.
- Determine the key project requirements. This requires working with your business partners to ensure the critical success factors (CSF's) and agreed upon across the project team. These should be documented and share with the vendor as a mutual understanding of the key requirements.
- Create a detailed statement of work. Carefully document the expected deliverables and milestones from both parties. Itemize the key requirements (CTQ's), and their acceptance criteria. Define the baseline project schedule and the change order process including what constitutes a change order, and how they are approved. Identify the communication mechanism for project updates (i.e. weekly meetings, submission of project overviews)
- Establish a project structure to facilitate communication. Depending on the size and scope of the project, a Steering Committee including the project sponsor, should be implemented to make strategic decisions on the project and remove the "big rocks". Assign project managers on both sides to oversee day-to-day efforts and work closely with the their project teams to ensure all sides are updated on the status, issues and risks.
During the Project
- Conduct a formal kick-off meeting. Use this time to re-affirm the purpose of the project with your internal customers as well as the vendor. Review the roles and responsibilities of each team member, the high level requirements and the key deliverables. Ensure everyone is familiar with the established communication mechanism and the issue resolution process including escalation procedures on both the internal and vendor teams.
- Implement a reoccurring status meeting. This should be a standing meeting, with a formal agenda, held at a set time and place. Items to review can include: tracking to project plan, open issues, upcoming milestones, discussion points and items that may require steering committee review. The type of project will determine which side will lead the meeting. Be sure to document the results of the meeting and share with the entire project team including the vendor liaison and "one level up" on both sides.
- Utilize a project management tool to share information. Where possible, create an environment where the entire project team, including the vendor, can share documents and files. This will facilitate the sharing and storing of information and in many cases avoid the issue of version control and/or e-mail management. This is especially helpful when the vendor is located off-site and/or within a different time zone.
- Initiate periodic project reviews. To ensure proper communication across both organizations these formal reviews should include the project team leaders as well as the internal sponsor, customer and the vendor CRM. The agenda can include a review of progress to date, highlights of recent accomplishments, discussion of open issues - and agreement on the approach to resolve those issues. Where necessary, use the statement of work as a baseline for agreed upon expectations.
While each of the above recommendations may not work for every project, using the above as the foundation for project oversight will minimize many of the problems that occur with outsourced development and vendor supplied application installations.
2006 (c) Brian Jaffa, Senior Account Manager, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated
About the Author:
Brian Jaffa is a Senior Account Manager within the Information Technology department at Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, provider of laboratory diagnostic testing. He has been managing large software implementations for the past 8 years including applications developed internally and supplied by outside vendors. Brian can be reached via e-mail at