Over time I have been part of many projects involving managing the role of a vendor and have decided to document some of those experiences and lessons learned to try and establish the mythical ‘best practice’
The obvious starting point is the selection process for the potential vendor your organization is going to partner with and the role of the Project Manager during that process. As any good Project Manager can attest this stage is the ONLY stage you truly are the customer and the vendor is focused on treating you as such :). During the selection process it is an opportunity to gauge what it would be like to work with that vendor and they can gauge what you, as a customer, would be like to work with. There are a few simple rules to follow from a Project Management perspective going through a more formalized selection:
1) Ensure there is one and only one focal point for the vendor to avoid multiple conversations going on.
2) Set up a plan to ensure that the selection can be managed from both sides and ensure buy in to the plan
3) Coach everyone in the process and what is expected. For example speak to the vendors and explain the concept of partnership and what your organization is looking for and coach your internal team to remain impartial and to ‘score’ each vendor on their ability to meet your prioritized needs and ability to deliver against them
4) Ensure all aspects of the selection are taken care of and fulfilled i.e. written responses, reference checks, all interested parties involved. If every piece of information is obtained and all the right people have been spoken to then you have a better chance for ‘buy in’ to delivery of the services and/or solution that is recommended
Also never forget that as your customer selects the vendor they wish to partner with you can offer your opinion but your role is to NOT make the decision but deliver with the selected vendor.
Next – The Contract Negotiation