September 13, 2014
“Sourcing excellence = professional knowledge + market knowledge + product knowledge” Jonathan Dutton
As per a recent study conducted by IACCM, 88% of Contract Management professionals indicate that improvement of the quality of the Requirements was the number one factor to improve contract performance in their organisations (IACCM – Contract and Commercial Management – A Operational Guide).
I have discussed the importance of understanding and clarifying the scope with your vendor as part of the Iron Triangle (here).
As we all know, having incomplete, erroneous or unexamined specifications for a product or service category lead to confusion, rework or simply sub-optimum results.
To be successful, you first need to fully understand the scope and alternatives yourself i.e. what the business really needs and different possible ways to achieve it.
Let’s see some practical tips on how to do so.
The 5 milestone Road to successful Requirements’ Identification and Sourcing Excellence
1) Know your stakeholders
First of all, you need to know your own stakeholders.
Anyone, the project affects directly and indirectly is a stakeholder.
Some of them are affected more than others and some of them will have a greater influence in determining the success of the project. So, if during the procurement process, you miss out on engaging with a stakeholder, you then risk project failure.
HOW to: Brainstorming and looking at the process and usage of the product and service should reveal who you need to approach.
2) Know you business objectives
You also need to know your business objectives.
You should embrace a different approach if the business objective is a strategic one e.g. entering a different market, rather than a tactical or an operational e.g. improving a process or removing cost.
Moreover, different stakeholders will have different motives and will probably target different outcomes in order to consider the project outcome successful. These need to be identified and defined.
Hence, the stakeholders need to know and sign off on the final defined business objectives.
HOW TO: Use interviews and questionnaires to define the requirements, needs and expectations from each one. Then ask them to review and sign off on the final result.
3) Understand the Specification
This is self evident. If you cannot articulate the functional and technical specifications then you probably do not have a good grasp of the project and would not know how to evaluate the suppliers.
Try defining this using AMPP technique (Ask, Mirror, Paraphase and Prime) and see that you have a good understanding of it and its implications.
Moreover, check that the functional and technical requirement are aligned with the business objectives and that at the end of the process all stakeholders have a high level of confidence of the final defined results.
HOW TO: A number of effective communication techniques can be found in the book Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson et al.
Phrases like e.g. “Please let me know if you see this differently….. If I understand correctly……. Is this what you mean…… In my mind this means that ……..” can help.
Moreover, make use of a requirements checklist, questionnaires, interviews, roundtable discussions and brainstorming sessions. Research and benchmarking are tools you can also employ.
4) Agree the acceptance criteria
After the 1-3 steps are complete you can crystallise from the feedback provided the acceptance criteria. These can be categorised in three categories:
i) Hurdles (the Must Have criteria) e.g. ISO certification, Insurances’ cover, No accident record.
ii) The Essential Requirements (for which the vendors can be graded on a scale) e.g. quality, price level…
iii) The Good to Have (additional attributes that may not be immediately required but an extension of the service) e.g. operations in another state or territory that may be a target for your company in the future.
Moreover, the project team needs to have a clear idea of
A) What is the procedure of picking a bid
B) What are the quantifiable, measurable criteria and
C) How assessment and grading will be made.
5) Change Management Process
Scope creep, the process of evolving and ever-changing requirements, is a major cause that many projects fail e.g. run over-budget, over-time.
However, ignoring that there may be changes is not an option.
So, especially for complex and longer on duration projects, a clearly defined practical change management process needs to be defined in order to have a good chance of been successful.
Based on mutual trust a clearly defined process for approaching changes identified (which can be clearly linked to the business objectives) is key.
HOW TO: An effective way to do this is to agree to change control documentation and a sign off process.
Moreover, great tips on the 5 levels of building trust can be found in the book The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey
In essence, working on your internal and external relationships is the only way that will provide the necessary trust that is the bedrock on which any change management process can be based on.
The Requirements specification as well as the overall Procurement and Contract Management process are heavily reliant on good relationship management skills.
Ron Larimer in his article My three issues with the Seven Step Model has made this very lucid in the Procurement model he supports:
So, in thinking about Sourcing Excellence I suggest that Jonathan’s quote needs to be modified a little to include the key element of trusting relationships.
Sourcing excellence = professional knowledge + market knowledge + product knowledge + well established trusting relationships
What are the successful ways you use to define requirements in your Procurement process?
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