10 questions to ask non-procurement colleagues about contracts

Stephen Ashcroft - January 2013We’re going back to basics with this post. I meet non-procurement specialists with procurement responsibilities that just need a ‘nudge’. SM readers should find this list helpful when advising their non-procurement’ colleagues. To set up and manage supplier (vendor or contractor) engagements is tough for some people who are outside procurement (which is why they need us) - especially because some suppliers are much better at bidding than they are at delivering the contract. How do they get the core information they need to ensure a successful supplier engagement? Here’s a simple but incredibly effective checklist I recommend to our clients. These 10 simple questions will improve your colleagues’ approach to supplier engagements. Misaligned expectations are the number one cause of commercial disputes. 1. Do you know what you are buying? Admit you are not (always) a technical expert, so get the supplier to explain their value in business terms. 2. Are the responsibilities clear (who, what, why and when)? Be clear on obligations and liabilities (you might have some too). 3. Has the supplier explained how the deliverables are going to be achieved? Did you ask for a method statement or plan? 4. What does the supplier need from you? Dependency on the buyer can be a useful excuse for failure for some suppliers. Clarity is key. 5. Are deliverables linked to acceptance prior to payment? You need to define and jointly agree what is acceptance (agreed before the contract award). 6. What happens if things go wrong? We always ask (big-spend, strategic) suppliers for their risk register (they have got one, right?). 7. Are responsibilities to report progress clearly stated (so there are no surprises)? Ask the supplier to define management information in their proposal. 8. How is the supplier’s performance monitored? Is everything on track to ensure delivery? How do you know? The Olympic security contract is a good example. 9. What will success look like? Are the criteria, such as timing, quality and cost, clear in the contract or statement of work (SOW)? 10. If it is not clear to you, how can it be clear to the supplier? This is more a question for the stakeholder, than the supplier. The ‘it’ refers to the complete procurement – SOW, pricing, contracts, obligations and liabilities, the whole relationship in fact. If you have any to add, please provide your suggestions in the comments below. ☛ Stephen Ashcroft is a procurement coach at Brian Farrington. He welcomes comments and LinkedIn connections, and you can follow him on Twitter
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