In managing any system implementation project, knowing the vendor or implementation partner is often times as important as understanding the client. Awareness of the experience and capabilities of the vendor team can significantly affect how to manage the project, influencing decisions around timeline, frequency of status meetings, and which stakeholders should be regularly involved from the vendor side – e.g. solutions architects, technical developers, vendor project managers, etc.
Follow these steps to ensure vendor involvement meets client expectations and the project’s ultimate goals:
Vendor-focused kickoff meeting
Hold a meeting with the vendor team prior to the main project kickoff that focuses on the vendor’s understanding of project scope. The vendor should provide specifics on who will be involved from their team, their level of weekly hours committed to the project, and the best way for the project management and client team to contact them. In this meeting, nuances and complexities of the client that may differ from the vendor’s typical client profile should be clearly identified, and the vendor should present a specific plan to manage these complexities. It is also helpful to review the vendor’s Statement of Work provided to the client to ensure there are no overlapping activities with the project management team or client’s scope, and that the vendor’s proposed involvement meets client expectations.
Mediating “homework items,” between vendor & client
It is important to review the timeline and key milestones of the project, with the vendor team illustrating exactly what “homework items,” they will need from the client to meet specific implementation milestones – e.g. data conversion, data validation, user acceptance testing signoff, etc. This step will help reduce confusion and potential frustrations from executives that are not involved the day-to-day project should missed deadlines occur due to client delays. From a project management standpoint, it is also important to understand the downstream process impacts of technical design decisions that are made between the client and vendor in order to effectively manage change post go-live.
Ongoing status updates with the vendor team
Brief, recurring meetings between the project manager and the vendor builds trust between the two teams and clear up any underlying confusion that may not be addressed during meetings with the client. If the vendor or implementation partner does not fully understand specific requirements, or becomes overwhelmed attempting to resolve an issue, they may be hesitant to speak up in front of the client. By checking in with the vendor on a regular basis, the project management team will minimize vendor misunderstandings.
It is easy to focus entirely on client needs and ignore the challenges faced by the vendor team. Keeping potential obstacles for the vendor in mind and addressing them proactively can lead to a more efficient and successful project.