Contract negotiation over partner collaboration

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As a buyer of a new system we formalize our expectations on the solution we want with functional and non-functional requirements. We also make sure that the new vendor is compliant with all our standards and values and that they have good credit rating and great references. And of course the price as an offer you cant refuse offered by a very nice salesperson. But what about the relationship between the two soon-to be-partners? I have been working with procurement for both sides – the vendor and the buyer – and both take for granted the upcoming collaboration will be smooth. It is often not and soon the blame game is on. So why don’t we set the expectations on each-other ways of working as partners, instead of vendor/buyer, early in the RFI so we mitigate the risk of project failure?

Recently i was coaching a project manager in a procurement project for a learning platform. We did the usual RFI and RFP stuff with process and impact mapping creating great requirements, but i was frustrated over the lack of interest in the actual to-be partner and its capabilities and people. It was all about the price and features. So i tried to introduce the new concept i have heard of called Lean Agile Procurement or just LAP. An interesting concept for setting mutual expectations and speed up the process for procurement. Over a piece of A3 paper each party define their drivers on a lean canvas. My idea was to have just three of the potential partners to sit a whole day and work together over this A3 lean canvas and pay them for this. Then decide on which partner to team up with based upon the match, both in the room and on the canvas. I introduced the concept but it was too late, eight potential partners was already invited to demo their case. The process took four months and then financial regulations paused the project. Still now two years after the system is not up and running.

But regardless of what framework or not we use for procurement the success is based on partnership and not the price. We must set the mutual expectations for a long time “marriage” and how to work as partners, otherwise it will fall back to contract negotiation over partner collaboration which is the norm today for procurement projects. So here I bring my challenge on this status quo as user stories in the table below, for you to copy and paste into your next RFI or RFP in an early stage to set the mutual expectations. Be my guest but also please comment below so I can update this table with your experience as well:

  • As partners we need have a mutual trust so we can focus on delivery rather than overhead.
  • As partners we need to have full transparency with our work so we can enforce trust between us.
  • As partners we need to work closely together so we minimize the errors made by bad and slow communication.
  • As partners we need our common plans for tomorrow, the near future and next year to change often so we embrace change.
  • As partners we need to work on a long term together, so we improve our ways of working.
  • As partners we need to create a win-win situation, so we grow together as organisations.
  • As partners we need to use the same tools or have great integrations in between so we can collaborate seamlessly on distance.
  • As partners we need to work in an agile way of working so we adopt to modern proven practices.
  • As partners we need to become better over time, so we improve our collaboration.
  • As partners we need to understand each others business model and USP so we can optimize value for us both.
  • As partners we need to have support in our way of working so we do not fall into the standard blame-game.
  • As partners we need to have fun together so we can enjoy the daily work and solve our problems in a creative and trustful mode.
  • As partners we need to understand each other’s company (and country) culture so we have understanding of our differences and minimize misunderstandings.
  • As partners we need the expectations on each other’s to be agreed and visible, so we do not misunderstand each other.
  • As partners we need to have a common way of measuring improvements in delivery and our way of working together so we know we constantly become better.
  • As partners we need to have an understanding of the importance of growing a self-directed team along with the delivery, so we become more agile.
  • As partners we need to have a understanding of what people will work together so there will be no surprises in the line up.
  • As partners we need to create psychological safety in our team so we dare to challenge each-other.
  • As partners we need to have an understanding of each other’s stakeholders so we can meet their expectations as well.
  • As partners we need to keep key talents within our team over time, so we secure maintainability.
  • As partners we need to create and maintain a “we-culture” so we do not fall into the standard blame game.
  • As partners we need to minimize time for bringing on a new talent to the team so we can be resilient with challenges.
  • As the independent agile coach i need to see above statements fulfilled so i can help the partners navigate together instead of fighting against each-other.

If you want to know more, get examples on actions and acceptance criteras for each user story, please be my partner;).

/Ove Holmberg

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