Myth #6: Outside Suppliers Can Be Trusted To Add The ‘Right’ Value – Part #2 (Lesson 20)
Hygiene factor #2: The supplier will deliver scope, quality, time frame, and cost
When an organisation starts out on the project journey with a supplier, it is fair to assume that the supplier really does want to deliver the full scope of the project, to the quality expected, in the time frame discussed, and to the cost on the ‘price sticker’.
In all but the most extreme cases, this will be true. That said, please be aware that I have seen some companies that were happy to ‘churn and burn’ to achieve sales targets, while knowing that:
- The project implementation would not happen within the promised timeframes.
- When they finally had the bandwidth to work on the project, there was no chance of meeting the wild expectations the salesperson set.
I will not dwell on this, but be aware that not all suppliers are created equal. Ensure that your due diligence is adequate.
So, let us assume that your supplier really does care – and most of them really do – about achieving the scope, quality, time frame, and cost objectives of the project.
The supplier will deliver the full scope of the project as expected
Any project outcomes result from the interactions between, and the sum of, literally hundreds of thousands (even millions) of individual actions, decisions, sentences, and statements. These are made in conversations, meetings, documents, specifications, emails, lines of program code, scripts, configuration values, data values, records, and a thousand other variables that are too numerous and too tedious to mention here.
Each one of these tiny items forms a part of the whole scope of work that gets completed on the project journey. Hopefully, each one contributes to the successful project outcomes that you were looking for.
Back when you started the project, this vast scope of details, ideas, needs, and wants expressed by your team throughout the project life cycle was almost entirely unknown and undocumented.
Then, along the project journey, everyone shared the process of discovery, refinement, mistakes, and ‘eureka’ moments. They shared the satisfaction and disappointments. They shared the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears of long hours, intense negotiations, haggling, and give and take. And they shared a thousand other experiences that contributed to the project’s outcomes.
The point is that, when you start a project – honestly – how clear is the scope?
Some projects start with a reasonably detailed RFI/RFP process that may list thousands of high-level requirements. Other projects may not go to tender, but instead involve accepting a proposal from the supplier that lists five to twenty bulleted items that everyone agrees are the contracted project scope. Perhaps those bullets are then further expanded in the document to provide additional details.
It does not matter how the project starts, or the level of detail. The stark fact still remains: there are infinitely more ‘unknowns’ than there are ‘knowns’.
This means that the supplier barely understands ANYTHING about your organisation; and yet both parties happily waltz into multimillion-dollar contracts with the flimsiest of details to describe what will actually be delivered. This is often made far worse when inappropriate project approaches are, either explicitly or implicitly, locked into place.
If you have undertaken a fixed-price project to control costs, this may drive your supplier to minimise the scope that they want to deliver as the overall effort increases and the budget begins to run low.
Consider also that, at approximately the same time that the budget begins to run low, your team will probably be just getting into their stride. At this point, they may only now really begin to realise quite what it is that they want to see this project deliver!
If the project is on a Time & Materials basis, the supplier will usually be open to accepting additional work if you pay for it. Is your organisation ready for that?
Either way, it can result in ‘tears before bedtime’ for everyone involved.
Realistically, the final exact and complete scope of the project can never really be considered as locked down until the project has been completed, delivered into production, accepted, and signed off.
Even then, I have seen situations where clients have been all but forced into accepting systems that are not yet fit for purpose.
The key takeaway here is to very carefully consider what you believe the scope of your project is. Give even more consideration to what your supplier thinks it is. Then give the most thought to how you plan to get satisfaction against that scope.
Scope is probably the biggest bone of contention on most projects.