Dealing with Unruly Government Vendor

By baquaviva ·
Does anyone have suggestions on how to deal with a government vendor contracted to deploy and maintain a COTS software system who doesn't have any contractual requirements regarding responsiveness, customer service, etc.? Right now I'm being told the government is actually being held hostage by this small company and there's nothing we can do about improving their performance unless they choose to do so. Of course the government is giving them more business (hey, it is the government) so this issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon. I've recommended several things to try to resolve this and each idea has been shot down as "too costly", or "the company won't care". So we continue to do nothing but grow more and more frustrated.
I realize we are most likely at the company's mercy, but any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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All Answers

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Oops, I thought this was about selling...

by OldER Mycroft In reply to Dealing with Unruly Gover ...

Unruly Governments!

My mistake.

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by daniellgtr In reply to Dealing with Unruly Gover ...

Is there an SLA (Service Level Agreement) in place? And is the problem then that the SLA is either not complete or ensuring measurement of the wrong things?

If you don't have an SLA then you should negotiate one ASAP.

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On a serious point though,...

by OldER Mycroft In reply to Dealing with Unruly Gover ...

I spent 8 years working inside the British Civil Service as a consultant and the following sprang to mind.

In Britain, all contractors and vendors who are privvy to the outsourcing system, have to comply with the vagaries of the Official Secrets Act: as such they are constantly at the beck and call of their benefactor - and more importantly, at constant risk of contravening said Act. The British Official Secrets Act is a highly flexible beast, being that it is worded to be all-encompassing and also very vague at the time of signing it.

Should you wish to do so, there are various and nefarious ways that a contractor could be "seen" to be in contradiction of what was signed to.

Most outsourced provisory contracts have some form of "get out" clause: I would advise you to examine the small print with a fine-tooth-comb, the hitherto unnoticed clauses may just come to your rescue.

Failing that, most Governments have by their very nature, a department solely engaged in the practice of outsourcing. Therefore you could "let it slip" that the current contract is being put out to tender for price comparison purposes - the imminent threat of loss-of-contract might be just enough to get this vendor off his a*se, and back to what he is supposed to be doing - providing yourselves with a prompt and courteous service.

OR - put it out to competitive tender FOR REAL - just for price comparison purposes of course!

Good luck.

<Edited for typos>

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Carrot and Stick

by Wayne M. In reply to Dealing with Unruly Gover ...

On the carrot side, one can try to build a good working relationship with the technical staff who are doing the work. Many government contracts have contractors work onsite for this reason. Even without authority to direct the staff, "peer" pressure can get them to work hard for you.

On the stick side, look at the contract type. If it is Cost Plus or Firm Fixed Price, start tying your payments to the contractor to the completion of deliverables. Release funds only as deployments are completed. If the contract is T&M, then it is a little more difficult, although I have seen agencies suddenly have "funding difficulties" when they are unhappy with the work performed causing payments to be delayed.

One other thing to look out for. If this is a small company that is suddenly not delivering, check their financial situation. Poor performance may be an indication that they are ready to go belly up and you may need to find a replacement firm ASAP.

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One Other Thought

by Wayne M. In reply to Dealing with Unruly Gover ...

If the small contractor appears to be making good faith efforts to meet its commitments but is simply overwhelmed by the size of the effort, then you may want to negotiate a more realistic delivery schedule. In the text books, this would involve a new contract, but government contracting officers will be hesitant to do this, for some very good reasons. As long as the contractor seems capable and is doing its best, then the best course of action may be to define a new schedule to set realistic expectations on both sides.

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