Several posts ago I published an article titled "Top 6 Ways Your Vendor Can Screw You On Your Next Project". Today I wanted to follow up on this topic with a list of strategies geared to help a company deal with the tricks and ploys of irresponsible vendors. All of these methodologies have proven themselves in my project management consulting practice, especially on the troubled project recovery assignments.
Strategy #1: Pay More Attention to Your RFP
Spend more time and effort writing your Request For Proposal. The more complicated the project is, the more precise and detailed should your request for proposal be. In which of the cases below do you think the contractor would have less "wiggle room"?
The vendor shall design and build a family home of adequate size
The vendor shall build a 4-bedroom, 3 bathroom 3,000-4,000 square feet Tuscan-style home
Strategy #2: Assign (Hire) an Experienced Requirements Analyst
Assign an experienced requirements analyst to comb through the documentation in order to weed out all the ambiguities. If your company does not have one, hire a professional requirements expert to do this task.
By the way, it is a very good idea to inform the vendor that an independent (or internal) analyst will be assigned throughout the project to assess the quality of the requirements and design documentation submitted by the contractor. Usually one of the main points in the contract drafted by the supplier is that the requirements and design documents will be written by a representative of the vendor. Hence it is a good idea to delegate the requirements elicitation to the contractor but retain the right for requirements validation and verification.
Strategy #3: Keep Asking The Most Important Question
Whenever you are working on requirements elicitation with representatives of different departments, always ask the following question:
Is there anyone else in your department I should talk to regarding the requirements for this project?
For example when working on the "Opening of a New Restaurant" project the obvious person to interview regarding the requirements would be the restaurant owner. However neglecting to talk to the chef and possibly the senior waiter may lead to omitted features regarding the kitchen setup and POS system setup.
Strategy #4: Document Walkthroughs and Inspections
Always have the finished requirements documentation reviewed by the customers (users) and the technical team. While reviewing the specifications with users you will mainly be looking for omitted requirements (e.g. "Oops, we didn't think about that one!"), while the technical team should give you a feedback regarding the feasibility of any given scope feature (e.g. "You can't have it like that, but we can do this instead").
Strategy #5: Don't Yield to Pressure!
Your vendor will probably be pushing you to have the requirements specifications document signed off as soon as possible, citing potential schedule slippage as one of the major arguments. Resist this temptation at all costs, especially before you implemented strategies 2, 3 and 4!
Just keep in mind that a mistake that costs very little to fix at the beginning of the Planning stage of the project will end up costing a lot more (between x40 and x1,000 more actually!) at the end of the Execution phase.
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