One of the most critical parts of every outsourcing relationship is just that – the relationship. I believe that a good beginning of this relationship is a good contract. If there is a fairly good idea about what’s to be done, the chances are that you can avoid major disagreements. However, once the relationship goes to a point where every conflict solution starts in the contract, formality and bureaucracy will threaten to take over the relationship. More than one outsourcing relationship seems to have ended there.
In our current relationship I have a feeling that we are right now balancing on a limit between relationship establishment and permanent conflict. We’ve spend almost a year establishing finalised descriptions of all services, we have an advanced model for relationship handling and permanent meeting forums. The only problem seems to be that we’ve been in contract establishment so long that everyone is now getting tired of us. It’s time to create some action.
Action however, takes curage. As a purchaser I am used to the fact that my role is not a popularity contest in the eyes of the supplier. However, you always have to be careful not pushing this too far. On the other hand it is all the more important that this slightly unpopular role in the eyes of the supplier is compensated by a strong internal support. The last 24 hours I realised that our support is have kind of a baisse.
The main problem according to our application managers is that meeting forums aren’t established, the ITIL based idea of a change advisory board isn’t such a popular idea by all departments, and in general we are also criticised for not being informative enough about what goes on in contract management. Finally, as far as I know, we also get criticised for taking to long to communicate routines for orders based on our framework agreement, and for being to ambitious in the routines we’ve established.
Now, there is only so many conflicts we can handle at once. Furthermore, and this is interesting, our supplier has been extremely quick to form an alliance with the less satisfied application managers in our organisation. So, all of the sudden, from one day working to make sure we get the most out of the contract with a supplier on defensive moves, we have now moved to a defensive position with a supplier working on the offense to give us heat.
In this sense today marked a shift in strategy. From a strategy where we have been devoted to make the contract run the relationship we need a quick shift to a relationship based on good relations. This poses some specific challenges to me, and they take some courage. It is time to start having workshops about work routines and launching meeting standards that are not completely finished or describes in contracts. I will also need to consider order routines that are clearly less that adequate, in order to make people use any routines at all. These preliminary projects also mean that from a contract management perspective we risk loosing rights that could come out of an advantageous contract interpretation.
These risks are worthwhile from a pragmatic point of view. The problems we have been working on for a while, like the cooperation contract clauses, may be important but it seems clear that they are not the main concerns of the users of the contract. Instead, practical everyday problems are in other areas, such as making our service desk work according to routines that are common, no matter if they are in the contract or not and even if a wider audience workshop should mean that we loose some detailed right even if our contract specialists could have made the interpretation more advantageous in some specific detail.
After all – sourcing and contract management are to make sure that we get most of the delivery, not that we get the most out of the contract.