Thursday, October 10, 2019

Be a responsible buyer of technology

Be a responsible buyer of technology
Being a responsible buyer of technology and outsourced software development services, and working well with suppliers during projects are crucial skills for any organization.

Yet, the absence of those skills explains more project failures in third-party projects than any other factor. You will find some prominent examples of these among my project failure case studies.

Some may argue that suppliers should have all the skills required to make their projects a success, but any company relying completely on the skills of a supplier is making themselves dependant on good luck.

If you are not a ‘responsible buyer’ then you risk not spotting when the supplier and/or the project is failing.

A responsible buyer of third-party systems and systems development will have excellent knowledge, understanding and experience in defining, planning, directing, tracking, controlling and reporting systems development projects. They will know what should be done, when, why and how.

In many projects the supplier should be running the above-mentioned processes as part of helping a buyer achieve their target business outcome (after all, the supplier is expected to have done a great many projects of this type). However, this does not mean that the supplier will, in fact, be doing all of those things.

That's why it is vital that the buyer themselves knows what needs to be done.

In most large technology projects, it is excellence in program and project management that is the crucial factor in determining success — not knowledge of technology. This is often true in situations when, for example, a project is being carried out across an organization (especially a global organization); across a group of companies in collaboration; or on behalf of a central marketplace and its participants (such as a stock exchange).

In large business-critical projects neither the supplier nor the buyer should be doing any aspect of the project in isolation, as doing so will increase the risk of failure. This isn’t just a need for transparency, it is a need for active communication plus active confirmation and verification that messages have been received and understood.

The following three excuses for total project failure will never work in court:

1) "I was drunk,"
2) "I thought the buyer or supplier knew what they were doing," and
3) "I thought the buyer or supplier was doing it, not me."

If you are the buyer and you do not have all the necessary skills and experience to be able to define and control important projects (which is perfectly understandable as in most companies they don’t happen very often), there is an easy fix for this problem: Hire a very experienced interim executive to act on your behalf, even if the supplier will still do most of the project management and other work. You can delegate authority for doing the project management to the supplier but you cannot delegate responsibility.

Responsibility for the project — including responsibility for it failing — always rests ultimately with you, the buyer.

Your highly experienced interim executive can assume delegated responsibility on your behalf. However, that means that he or she becomes your authorized representative and therefore you can never blame that person for anything (e.g., in the way you might blame the supplier).

The supplier will thank you for this clarity of thinking around responsibility and authority. Be a responsible buyer of technology — there is nothing worse for a supplier than a buyer who is unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities during an important engagement.

In a nutshell: Responsibility for the project — including responsibility for it failing — always rests ultimately with you, the buyer.
Posted on Thursday, October 10, 2019 by Henrico Dolfing