IT procurement mistakes blamed for project failures

IT projects frequently fail because common mistakes are made when customers purchase IT equipment and services, according to the Best Practice Group (BPG), a UK-based IT advisory services company.

BPG, which has been involved in resolving some 400 disputes between customers and IT suppliers, surveyed the last 100 organisations it has represented in order to identify ten of the most common mistakes in IT procurement.

The most common mistake was that customers take responsibility for supplier’s mistakes – a factor in 98% of cases. “If the purchaser has paid the supplier for specialist advice, then [the supplier] should take responsibility for making the project work,” says BPG.

Almost as many cases (92%) involved a failure on the behalf of the customer to check their suppliers’ insurance details. “This does not always cause problems for the IT purchaser, but there is no point in trying to recover money if the supplier does not have it and is not insured. Always make sure the supplier has professional indemnity insurance,” BPG advises.

The third most common problem occurs when suppliers convince purchasers that their requirements have changed midway through a project – a phenomenon frequently referred to as ‘scope creep’. In fact, if the client’s requirements were stated clearly enough in the initial stages, it is more likely that the new system simply does not fulfil them. According to BPG’s report, customers should “ensure that the supplier understands that the purchaser is reliant upon their expertise through the tendering, scoping, specifying and contractual processes.”

In 85% of cases, companies write a tender for that provides too much technical detail. “By specifying the tender, should the project go wrong it becomes the purchaser’s ideas that did not work,” says BPG. The supplier should be responsible for defining a solution to the purchaser’s needs, “from specifying to planning to building to testing”, according to the report.

Other problems that BPG found included: Starting a project with a ‘clean’ contract, rather than a clearly defined paper trail including all documentation, including supplier brochures and emails; short-listing a supplier on the basis of their technical expertise, rather than their ability to meet business goals; failing to involve technical and contractual specialists in the negotiation process; accepting delivery of “bad” software, services or hardware; contracting with more than one primary supplier on an individual project; and using a supplier that is not a specialist in the stated project area.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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