The Problem Project – whose Problem is it

Helen Simpson considers the importance of personal accountability in delivering successful contracts and projects (“accountable” : subject to giving an account, answerable).

I understand (believe me, in the light of experience, I really do!), the temptation – having navigated through the intricacies of a complex procurement process,  spent days in negotiations with your chosen supplier and then finally put ink on that mammoth contract – to breathe a huge sigh of relief and think “over to you, supplier, your problem”. Except it’s not.

It’s your problem when your organisation, faced with the inevitable business change and upheaval that goes with the implementation of a new technology solution, rails against that – because no-one took the time to fully prepare them for the realities of the transition from the old world to the new.

It’s your problem if every part of your organisation is able to realise the benefits from the change – except for the one, really important (or really vocal!) part, which (it turns out, on reflection) won’t.

It’s your problem if, having failed to properly analyse the arms-length list of customer responsibilities buried in the schedules somewhere, you discover that you don’t (and won’t – because there’s no budget built in for it) have the depth and breadth of resources needed to hold to your end of the bargain.

And it’s your problem if the blindingly obvious to you turns out to be, seemingly, utterly invisible to them – and, moreover, is nowhere to be seen in the contract drafting, either. What’s the old expression ? Assumption is the mother of all ****-ups?

Of course, the risk of supplier default is something that should (and must) be addressed in the context of any project – contractually and practically – but, in doing so, it’s easy to lose sight of the reality that a complex technology project is not just a thing that is done “to” or “for” you; it should be owned by you. It is your project, right from inception through delivery to completion and beyond.

When it comes down to it, the supplier’s risk is in the money, but what about yours? Well, that’s in the massive amount of management time and overhead that you will inevitably expend in trying to keep your business “train on the track” whilst, at the same time, handling the fall-out. It’s in the disruption caused to your core business and the unwelcome distraction from yours (and everyone else’s) day job. It’s in your angry customers, patients, end users – whatever – and possible reputational damage. Oh, and the money.

Not a good place to be at the best of times but made ten times worse if down to failings in planning and management of the project. Sorry, your project!