A healthy client-vendor relationship is critical to ensure the success of a project, regardless of industry or size. Yet reports from Australia and overseas of government software development projects failing have one thing in common – somewhere along the way, communications between client and vendor have turned sour.
One of the final straws between an Australian IT company and the New Zealand government was the failure of the IT vendor’s new system to properly pay a large portion of the country’s 90,000 teachers in late 2012. The IT vendor handed back responsibility – a move costing them $22 million.
An inquiry in 2013 revealed that from the beginning, expectations for the extensive overhaul of the country’s biggest payroll solution were unrealistic. Some believe the project was poorly managed from the outset, due in part to a gradual breakdown in the relationship between the government and vendor.
In another vendor-client breakdown deemed one of the biggest public administration failures in recent history, the Queensland government is seeking damages from a major global information technology company.
CEO of the Solentive Technology Group, Kareem Tawansi, says such situations often arise as the result of a poor procurement process.
“Often people enter into big contracts without understanding clearly what they are procuring,” says Tawansi.
What follows is an uphill battle between client and vendor, often reaching a point of frustration and inefficiency that is beyond repair.
According to Tawansi, business relationships are just like any other relationship, and there are emotions attached to all successful relationships. To develop an effective relationship, there must be a personal element involved – “a level of mutual understanding and respect for one another.”
At the same time, the vendor must find the balance between managing the client relationship and ensuring the project achieves the expected return on investment for its client.
“All successful projects are the result of a journey, not just a contract,” explains Tawansi. “That journey is one that the vendor and client take together as one of discovery, continuity, constant communication and shared outcomes.”
In his experience, Tawansi advises the best way to build a long-term relationship is to meet face-to-face as often as possible. “A high amount of face time will help build and maintain a strong connection between client and vendor.”
The CEO concedes that this can become a problem when there is a high staff turnover on either the client or vendor side, as the relationship needs to be rebuilt from the start.
By cultivating a healthy vendor relationship, vendors and clients become more than just parties to a contract. A true business partnership is the key to a successful project, where visions and expectations combine towards the same goal.