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As the many Social Housing providers, Councils, Contractors or Care & Support providers I work with are aware, I tend to get involved in a whole raft of projects. Sometimes I am the Critical Friend that helps procure the right new right system/application solution. Other times its where organisations have heard from peers of how I have helped recover failed projects/procurements. It’s sad to see in the latter, often a lot of time, public money and energy wasted. My view is that its all generally potentially recoverable. It would be better if it never happened in the first place, of course!
I was chatting this week with an ICT colleague at an organisation this week, who looks after aspects of another linked enterprise. We were talking about how much is often taken on trust in software procurements. They knew the strict methodology I generally use, which clearly identifies ‘what’s there and what’s not’ from tenderers. Organisations new to software procurement often don’t know the core questions to ask or can get blindsided by good sales and little much detail underneath.
Often people in the organisation looking to procure, even if within OJEU (or OJUK I guess after our Brexit), structure a procurement where much is based on ‘how the tenderer might supply x or y’, rather than what’s there right now or not. Where suppliers know they cannot actually supply a big chunk of what’s being asked for, or it might be future development, good sales folk will no doubt reach to play the ‘Partnership Card’. Nothing really as cheesy, as a supplier/tenderer telling you, “We see ourselves as a partner, not a vendor”.
“We will work with you as a ‘unique partnership’ and we will build this together, respecting each other and the buyer having a special position in creating something moulded around your needs. You will be strategic, showcase partner”. Wow that sounds good. Have you ever been offered that?
“Partnership”, is a bit overused during procurement, particularly where there are elements missing.
At one two-day demonstration, for a full new Contractor, Housing Management, Mobile, CRM & Self-service system, one system supplier (I wont be as rude as to name them or my 19k home client in Gods Own County - Yorkshire), banged on about partnership, for a full ten minutes at the intro. So far so good, we soon launched into the demo proper and there was a question about some innovation around supporting my clients Universal Credit customers. The response was swift, “That would be a change request”, from the same Sales Manager that had done the intro.
My response was very swift too, (as soon I could slip a word in edgewise), in asking “Would that be most likely free for us”?
The predictable answer back was, “If that was new functionality, it most likely would be chargeable”.
I replied, “But if we were to be working in that partnership you just outlined ten minutes ago, I would have expected something better. What you could you do for us? Could it be almost free of charge?”. He came back and said, “You must be joking”, or words to that effect. I replied, “Well you started it mate”!
Marriage is often a very common partnership and that one is made legally binding and occasionally, “Til death do us part”. If a supplier is expecting us to trust they will supply the 40%+ of the missing solution needed, “as a partnership”, then lets get it incorporated into a contract too then?
If they are wary of entering into some legal milestones, I would be very concerned and it would look very much like another supplier with a more complete solution, may well better get your project on time, with all the requisite fundamentals supplied on time. Most likely that other supplier option may well be more expensive, although carry much lower risk of non-delivery.
Also, what price expense?
For example, £80k (for example), may well sound a lot more to pay upfront, but what if it prevented 18 months of additional delay, that prevented 12 staff not being able to do their jobs efficiently for over a year? That cost may well easily exceed the £80k, plus extra admin possibly needed to fill in the gaps. You are maybe beginning to see the dangers of (non-contractual) software supplier partnerships.
Related Post: 5G - Coming soon and very useful for Social Housing
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Together we are beautiful- Fern Kinney.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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