Problematic IT Projects – Excellent Paper from Best Practice Group

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IT Procurement is such a broad field, and as we said last month it is a “master spend category” that has changed more than most in recent years. One thing that does not seem to have changed unfortunately is the propensity of large IT systems development, integration or outsourcing type projects to go wrong. It tends to be the public sector examples that hit the headlines for obvious reasons, whether that is classics such as the Rural Payments scheme in the UK or the initial US Obamacare systems glitches.

But the private sector is not immune from disaster either, although we tend not to hear about those cases as we do the public sector examples. Just occasionally something hits the courts though, as in the hilarious case of EDS being sued by BSkyB, which hinged around Lulu the dog and her MBA....

Anyway, Best Practice Group is a niche consulting firm, run by Allan Watton, and he and the firm probably know more about why IT projects go wrong than anyone else we’ve come across. They have worked on trying to “save” a whole range of major IT contracts, and have a deep understanding of the issues ,whether technical, legal or behavioural, that contribute to problems in this area.

The team at BPG has now put together their latest in a series of useful good practice guides (an e-book really) called Problematic IT Project? It looks at the issues around major contracts, which could cover software development, systems integration or outsourcing. The paper is available here, free on registration.

Here is just a short extract, covering the interesting area of “expert responsibilities”, which rest with suppliers, and which the courts have taken a deeper interest in recently. All buyers of IT need to understand the topic; here is the section from the guide covering what the concept means for suppliers.


IT vendor responsibilities

If you’re considering asking your vendor to re-scope its services, so you can get the project back on track and aligned to your business outcomes, you must bear in mind the following:

Your vendor is responsible for ensuring that its service is fit for your intended purpose before they deliver it. For example, before contracting with you for the services and solution it provides, it must identify any material challenges it would reasonably perceive.

Your vendor must also validate your requirements before contracting with you. This obligation also rests with it for re- scoping of services. If challenges arise during implementation, your vendor cannot later state that your pre- contractual requirements were ambiguous, because it should have validated those requirements and asked you the ‘right’ questions.

Your vendor cannot expect you to validate whether its service and system offerings are appropriate for your requirements. The vendor must make clear what process it will go through itself, to validate whether it can meet your expectations (or not).

Your vendor cannot “contract out of” being responsible for its advice as an expert vendor.

The aforementioned are known as “implied” terms, under the Sales of Goods Act 1979, Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994. Where your vendor represents itself as a specialist in its field, recent case law indicates that these implied terms are usually legally binding, regardless of whether they are actually in the written contract wording. If a provider insists on contract terms that run contrary to one or more of the above implied terms, then you should ask them how serious they are about rebuilding your relationship with them.


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