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"Vendors have become important resources on all engagements. They provide tools, information, or people. Managing vendors offers its own set of challenges and rewards. Vendors have their own cultures, their own metrics, and their own interests. Plus, you have little direct control over their resources. You need to keep your options open when dealing with vendors.

Common Problems

"The table below identifies some of the common problems within the vendors category, key considerations, and some suggested questions that can be included in your assessment questionnaire."
Problem Description
Suggested Questions
Too small
Small vendors may not be able to scale to the requirements of your project.
How can we be sure that the vendor can scale to satisfy our needs?
Poor customer service
Check references to understand how well the vendor is known to serve customers. Internal references are the best. Include a penalty clause in the contract for poor service. Sign a service level agreement with the vendor.
Who else have you done work for? Are they willing to speak with us?
Unable to deliver on time
Include a nondelivery penalty clause in the contract. Recognize that nondelivery may be unacceptable to your project regardless of the penalties that a vendor can be called on to pay. You need the work done accurately.
What happens if you miss deadlines?
Go out of business
Small vendors can provide may benefits, but ensure that they are going to survive long enough to help you.
What is your debt load? How long have you been in business? How can you convince me that you're going to be around long enough to help us?
Different corporate culture
Cultural similarities are important in establishing a working relationship between vendor employees and your own project team. Select a vendor based on cultural similarity.
How will your team work with ours? What happens if we're too demanding? What happens if we need people to stay into the night or work on the weekends? How are your people being measured?
Flawed vendor Statement of Work (SOW)
The SOW needs to be clear, concise, and fair to both parties. The SOW needs to be managed by the rescue manager.
Has your lawyer or legal representative examined the SOW? How reasonable and fair is it to each of you? Will it stand in the way of making actual progress?

The above is an excerpt from a book written by Sanjiv Purba and Joseph Zucchero, published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2100 Powell Street, 10th Floor, Emeryville, California 94608 U.S.A. Sanjiv has over 20 years of experience managing large projects and many years engaged in rescuing ailing projects.