If you have ever been involved in IT project management, then you will probably have scars remaining from a few thorns that have continuously stuck in your side over the years.
Inadequate testing, scope creep, data migration and a relaxed attitude towards documentation are a few of the customary issues which can derail an otherwise workable project, but all of these typically have a core underlying issue; poor communication.
It may sound overly-simplistic, but ultimately if one or both of the parties are unwilling to fully engage with the other then it is simply not realistic to expect a hugely complex endeavour to run smoothly.
The best practice approach would define that from the tender stage a customer should have rigorously defined requirements from which a supplier can work, and a supplier should conduct workshops and prepare documentation to ensure that they have a full understanding of those requirements from the start.
Any change should be managed via contractual mechanisms which are strictly adhered to throughout the life of the project and documentation should be continuously updated to reflect this.
Of course with more and more IT Projects pursuing Agile methods these days, the need to set out and agree all the requirements on day one is not always a prerequisite. However, the broad scope needs to be defined at the outset and then with each “sprint” sufficient requirements are defined and analysed to support the delivery of the functionality planned for that sprint. Communication if anything is even more key when the optimum time for sprints is usually < 30 days.
Unfortunately, whilst every company (whether supplier or customer) sets out with the best of intentions, sometimes things just don’t run smoothly. Corners may be cut, usually by skipping meetings or failing to prepare documentation, in order to meet deadlines and no course-correction measures are ever put in place because hey, the deadline was met, so who cares? However in order to avoid spinning off into habitual disorganisation, you must make effective communication a top priority.
There may of course be simple fixes, such as scheduling specific time to make up for missed meetings, but things are often more complex. This is the stage where a project mediator could be worth their weight in gold.
Mediators facilitate significant communication through the use of confidential conversations, meaning that all parties involved are free to be open and frank without needing to worry that any admissions of fault might be used against them at some point in the future, including in the event of termination.
Typically mediators only require a single day of the parties’ time, but they can also be retained on an ongoing basis in order to chair meetings and enable honest discussions throughout the life of a project.
Whatever the issue, it is almost always a commercially sensible exercise to make use of an external mediator prior to termination as it will typically cost far less than pursuing a lengthy litigation (or moving forward with a project which is past its ‘sell-by’ date), and will ultimately provide more clarity for the parties moving forward.
|All of our mediations are dealt with by Chris Raske. In addition to being an accredited civil and commercial mediator, Chris is a Senior Dispute Consultant for IT Group’s commercial dispute team. In this capacity Chris has acted as both project consultant and expert witness for clients who are either thinking about or have already commenced the litigation process.|