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Delayed project deadline

By Nobilis74 ·
I am a project manager in the public sector with a software developer background.
We have a very high budget project in progress, and we facing the following problem:

Our supplier delivers project products just in time. Unfortunately, they work is in very poor quality, so we need to reject the acceptance and then we make a lot of replies and hints to the supplier. After they build our reflections into the stuff, they send it back, but the result is still not reach our expectations. So we reply again. And again.
Finally, the project just flush over it's planned finish line, almost two times now. My staff has other responsibilites meanwhile, taking part in other projects, and I also have three other projects to coordinate at the moment. As a result, my staff is getting unfocused, reviewing of the delivered products is getting late, and the moral is low.

I realised that I need to react, so I formally declared that the supplier must provide quality ensuranced products in a week, and they must not fail again. They replied that we are the folks who are incompetent, making too much assumptions, hints, constraints etc. and not even estimate the products in time.

At this level the conflict is seems unresolvable to me, so I am going to make a petition to our principal officer to make the rule. It will a painful step to all of us, but I can not see another way to regulate this hardly controlable and incooperative supplier. They want to invest the minimum efforts, getting the money as soon as possible, and they does not care about the project goals and the quality.

Could you provide any advice, please?

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Mediation

by JamesRL In reply to Delayed project deadline

If the contract is vague and fuzzy, and a matter of interpretation, you need some help in resolving this through a mediator. Is there another public service customer that uses the same service provider? They would be a natural.

Failing that, someone in your project management office and/or purchasing office.

Unfortunately, when working with outside suppliers, you have to set longer timelines, to take into account the heightened need to review and the difficulties and delays of communicating with an outside organization.

You may have to reset the project timelines and expectations for the suppliers deliverables at the same time, painful as that may sound. First, get to a common agreement, then publish the new dates and reset it. Make sure you plan for more to go wrong....

james

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PM has a restricted authority

by Nobilis74 In reply to Mediation

I can see now that I have a lot to learn! Here at my office that is a nonsense to let a project sink, reseting it and confessing that the PM has failed his job. Well, I suppose we should do this in some cases, but how could we? Our position is based on continous success, the unsuccessful manager has no more than two chances before he will be sent back to be PM administrator.
This is because out principals had to report to the local government. If he had to report failures, then his position is getting unstable, so our's are too.

Considering your advices, I am playing with the idea of reseting our expectations, and defining deliverables in a more exact way. After getting a more detailed description of our expectations, the supplier probably may not say that he could not imagine our desires. After that, when they provide with low quality deliverables, we shall be able to prove that they are incompetent or insuitable for the job. With such a proof I can stop the project without loosing or weakening my position.

Let me take a final note. Can you imagine that you managing a project without the authority to specify it's length and deadline? This is the case of me, so I can not change the dates on my own, especially since other important (and expensive) projects are depending on this project.


Thank you for your comment, James!

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Well I can , bet James can too

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to PM has a restricted autho ...

and that'a a poinyter to a very big problem with big projects.
I've been asked to put forward and cost a proposal to meet a requirement. Think about double it add ten. Get told to take out my leeway because someone else is cheaper. Get the project, short 20% development time below my second number, because us devloper typea always over-estimate and besides we need the business. First casualty quality.
Exactly the same problem when you're told as a PM, we need this by then and we can pay this much. First casualty Quality.

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Define the Expectations

by Wayne M. In reply to PM has a restricted autho ...

This sounds like a communications problem. First, take a quick inventory of what has taken place so far.

Carefully review the specifications that were given to the contractor and compare these to what was found during acceptance testing. If the faults were not listed in the specification, one must do a better job in preparing the specifications. If the faults are in clear violation of the specification, one should strongly consider replacing the contractor; someone knowledgeable in contract law would need to be involved. If the faults were covered, but the wording was ambiguous, again one needs to do a better job in preparing the specifications.

One needs to be very precise in identifying the acceptance criteria to a contractor. Nothing can be assumed nor unclear. The responsibility for clear communication relies on the purchaser and the responsibility for meeting the specification falls on the contractor. Analyze the problem and then take the appropriate action.

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Try a product

by Dr Dij In reply to PM has a restricted autho ...

like iRise

or sophea's prophesy

they both define the required end product (software) in visual terms and actual screens similar to rad prototyping but with actual reqt's underneath, all visually, so real easy to get correct reqts from users 1st time and for developers to match the required functionality

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Solutions versus enablers

by JamesRL In reply to Try a product

We often have this issue where someone sees a problem and as IT folks we tend towards a tool as the solution.

But a wise person once taught me that first, you fix the process, then you look for ways to automate it.

The problem seesm fundamental - lack of communication. If the contractor found the requirements vague, then they should communicate that. If they were uncertain what was required, they should ask.

Solutions such as you are proposing may help, but at the core of the problem is something more fundamental - solve it first.
James

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Three choices

by jdmercha In reply to Delayed project deadline

1. Lower your expectations.
2. Find a new supplier.
3. Bring the process in-house.

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Can not lost my face

by Nobilis74 In reply to Three choices

Hmm... You may be right, althrough all of these choices means to me that I am failed my job.

1. Lowering my expectations is unethical, I think. I have a strong opinion of what the supplier could do. I was partly created the software development rules and corporate standards of IT department. Because I am the one who is looking after the project from selecting the best supplier to prepare the sw architecture plans and implement the software, you are probably right when you suppose that my expectations are high. How can I ensure the quality any other way? Should I really lower the expectations just because the supplier is neglectic? I am getting confused now...

2. Finding a new supplier is almost unthinkable after a public tender has finished. This supplier was selected by it's application. (Honestly, there only was two applicants.) Since the funds are originated from public taxes, we can not refund another tender in the same scope. I think I need to find a resolution within this project, since I think that I made some vast mistakes when I let the supplier to make us play his game of giving low quality pieces of products time over time.

3. Bringing the process in-house is just fine. In that case we have full control, excellent communication, clear responsibilities. I would love it. Unfortunately, we have not enough human resources, since we are only managers and experts, managing outer suppliers.

Thank you for your thoughts, they bought me aspects that I did not count on before.

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Just Say NO!

by rojackson In reply to Can not lost my face

The problems that you are facing are classic. We have deadlines for a reason. If the vendor cannot deliver the expected quality on time and they have failed to do this repeatedly it is time to fire them and move on. You will not get out of this trap, with the selected vendor.

I suggest Tony Collins' book, Crash: Learning from the World's Worst Computer Mistakes (Simon and Schuster). You'll see variations of your project repeated over and over.

A good PM knows when to tell the Sponsor that it is time to quit wasting money! That's part of your job.

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Too late now

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Delayed project deadline

Things went nipples up a long time ago. Whether you haven't been clear in scope and requirements or they've gone off half cocked without appreciating them, I have no way of saying. Real world experience suggests a bit of both. Prioritise, get something workable out of them and close it off.

To be quite honest this sounds like you've gone down the big bang approach , something I've seen fail so many times it's untrue. Phased, iterative approaches reduce the risk factor on all sides and while it in theory takes longer and costs more than a totally successful big bang, one deliverable at the end approach, I've never seen a succesful one. At best it works, does exactly what you said, pity it took so long it's not what you need anymore.
You've got to come to some sort of agreement though, unless you awarded the job to a complete set of eejits, for every fault you can point out in their effort, they'll be able to point to a change in scope or requirement, that caused them a problem. In that case both of you have failed to keep control. The other regular scenario is where the price/timescale is set based on what is required, not what can be achieved. Been on the recieving end of that one too, in your position and theirs.

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