Problems on many IT project failures can be traced back before the project even started. For example, we’ve all seen poorly-designed projects, that should never have seen the light of day. Whether for political reasons, short-sighted management, or plain old hubris, some IT projects are simply stupid to undertake. They will never, ever, ever achieve their goals and their failure can be predicted far in advance.
With this in mind, take a look at a Forrester Research report on vendor selection. From the report:
Project success hinges on appropriate vendor selection. A thorough selection process minimizes risk and lays the foundation for a winning project…. Just as important as the selection process is what happens the day after the contract is signed — governing the engagement and the relationship with the provider.
I do agree with Forrester that vendor selection is critically important. However, the cynical me sometimes gets the sense that Forrester wants their clients to hire outside experts (which is to say, hire Forrester), so their clients can avoid responsibility for developing in-house competence. Without casting any doubt on Forrester’s skill and experience, I would suggest this is not always such a great idea.
Sure, hire the experts and let them guide you. However, in my experience, failures tend to magnify precisely when in-house expertise is most lacking. Few consulting companies will look after your interests to the same degree your in-house folks will. In addition, once a project starts down the failure progression, the results will often be far worse if you have not developed in-house skills. Crisis situations can deteriorate rapidly when a company is dependant on a vendor that is no longer deemed trustworthy. And this happens all the time.
So sure, Mr. Forrester, vendor selection is important. But it’s only one piece of a larger puzzle. Even the best vendor may not be able to overcome a flawed project design. In fact, the best vendors will avoid flawed projects like the plague.