Practical guidelines for building effective IT user/supplier partnerships have been issued by the Office of Government Commerce.
In a separate move, IT suppliers' organisation Intellect has come up with 10 commitments to users to address criticism by the OGC earlier in the year about poor IT delivery to government.
The OGC's Effective Partnering guidelines cover critical factors in creating a strong working relationship built on mutual benefit. They focus on taking the right approach, creating the right behaviours, putting the right people in the place and ensuring effective delivery.
Among a wealth of advice for suppliers and users, the guidelines highlight several common partnership pitfalls:
The wrong people
Choosing the wrong individual for a crucial role could derail the whole arrangement. "In some situations, interpersonal skills could be more important than technical understanding," the OGC said.
Lack of cultural readiness
Even though the benefits of partnering may be clear and achievable, the organisation may not be ready to work in new ways, or to be able to change in a short time.
If the objectives for both parties of the collaboration are not clear at the outset, no amount of management effort will make the partnering relationship successful.
Inadequate performance measurement
Service levels and baseline measurements are crucial for assessing suppliers' performance, but these can be very difficult to establish at the outset. It is also hard to find relevant benchmarking measures for meaningful comparisons.
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Intellect's 10 commitments to users
To demonstrate its determination to clean up the image of companies who supply IT to government, suppliers organisation Intellect - with the backing of its larger members - made the following commitments to users:
- To build an effective relationship with the customer founded on mutual trust and openness with a clear understanding of each other's goals and interests
- To do its best to agree with the user a "full and robust understanding" of requirements and the broader business context
- To speak up to suggest improvements to a programme
- To only bid for what it can deliver
- To declare all relevant assumptions that suppliers make, especially with regard to customers' information or services
- To ensure that programmes are managed professionally, using an agreed methodology with a clear focus on delivery of business benefits
- To identify, analyse and manage risks
- To provide enough transparency through the supply chain to enable sub-contractors to provide end-customer visibility
- To put forward teams and managers who have the necessary authority, skills, experience and availability for the programme
- To encourage staff to acquire and maintain appropriate professional standards and competencies.