Practical Software Measurement

Vendor Management Is a Two Way Street

Vendor Management

Managing vendors has become increasingly important in recent years.  In my account management role at QSM, I see both sides of the vendor management relationship.  The client wants a proven vendor that will partner with them in achieving their IT goals; and the vendor wants to win that business, employ their workers, and hopefully earn more work.  Unfortunately, that state of client/vendor Zen is not often achieved, usually due to legitimate (and sometimes not) misunderstandings on both sides.

On the client side, they are concerned with selecting a vendor with whom they are confident their tasks and deliverables will be achieved on time, within budget, and of the best possible quality.  After a round of RFI’s, then RFQ’s, then a final down select process, the vendor is chosen and work begins.  Often, at least in my experience, the overriding decision criteria comes down to cost, which makes sense, to a degree.  But in many cases, cheapest, I mean, least expensive bids often rule the day.  This kind of decision-making comes with its own set of risks; the most obvious is you get what you pay for and it’s often an ill-prepared vendor.

On the vendor side, they are bidding for the client work along with a number of other vendors hoping their bid will outshine the competition.  To achieve that, some vendors will low ball their cost quote to get in the door, then pull out the stops to deliver on their promise.  This results in rushed work, over-staffing, and stressful chaos.  At the end of the day, both client and vendor are at odds.  This isn’t always the case, but it happens enough, and can be avoided.

I respectfully submit one possible solution to bridge the gap between vendor and client expectations around project deliverables – historical data.  In my experience, those vendors that can produce historical data to demonstrate their performance will have a leg up on their competition.  When the client sees a vendor’s empirical history of delivering similar projects within the vendor’s promise for schedule, budget, and quality, they have a better shot at beating the other vendors vying for that same business with “promises” of the same.  Also, the client may be willing to pay more for that peace of mind. It’s not a panacea, but it’s a good will gesture on the vendor side to show they stand behind their plan for the project delivery.  On the client side, make it a contract requirement to have the vendors produce historical data so the client can sleep at night knowing the stewards of their project are battle-tested.  Perhaps include standing monthly touch point meetings to assess the progress to date, i.e., no late game surprises.  At the end of this day, both client and vendor mutually agreed to a documented, empirically-based estimate allowing work to start with the best chance of success. 

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Database Vendor Management