Those of you that have managed projects with a significant procurement component may grimace in familiar recollection after reading this column. For the rest of you, forewarned is forearmed!
Project management capability does not benefit from the ideal of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. When you deal with business partners at different levels of PM maturity, you will likely find that the quality of the PM practices applied will degrade to the level of the most immature partner regardless of how much expectation setting, coercion or terms & conditions are present in the contracts.
Let’s consider two common scenarios:
1. The vendor is at a higher level of maturity than the client – most of the time the vendor recognizes this and may introduce strict requirements management or project change control practices to protect their interests OR alternately they will refuse to participate in any remuneration arrangement other than a time & materials model. In either case, budget overruns or chronic change order “nickel & diming” behavior will affect project success. Pity any vendor that does not recognize you are at a lower level of maturity – they may lose their shirts on the deal!
2. The vendor is at a lower level of maturity than the client – even if the client is able to protect their financial interests by following good practices such as milestone-based payment or pay-for-performance and imposes unlimited penalties for non-delivery or low quality, the expected business results will not be achieved in either a timely or quality fashion. As the saying goes, never mud-wrestle with pigs – the pigs enjoy it, and you just get dirty!
So how can you avoid either of these situations?
1. Use agile approaches wherever applicable – these will help to minimize sunk costs and will provide an early indicator of trouble.
2. Try to partner with vendors that are at a compatible level of maturity to yours – too often the focus in vendor selection is only on price, delivery terms & conditions or scope. To these criteria you should also add project management and delivery approach practices. This is especially important if you are working with a remote or offshore partner – impacts of varying maturity levels are magnified significantly in these cases.
Ignore varying PM maturity levels at your own peril – if your project fails, it may be you who hears Anne Robinson’s famous words “You ARE the weakest link – GOODBYE!”