“Avoiding IT project failure” #3: contract management

In partnership with Abilways, Cloix Mendès-Gil lawfirm offers a certified contract management training. Targeting professionals in this evolving field.

Aligned with this training, lawfirm presents its third article in the "Avoiding IT Project Failure" series. After addressing project management through negotiations and legal tools, we now turn to contract management, a critical component for any project's success.

Effective contract management is vital in preventing failures in IT integration projects. It minimizes legal and financial risks while ensuring successful project delivery[1].

This process covers the entire lifecycle of a contract, from its inception through to completion, including the negotiation phase.

Contract management rests on four pillars: administration, relationship management, claims management, and performance evaluation.

This article delves into how each pillar can help circumvent failures in IT integration projects.

1. Administrative contract management

The contract serves as the legal backbone for mutual obligations. It's the primary reference for project implementation[2].

However, contracts can face issues like lengthiness, ambiguity, and non-exhaustiveness, especially as projects evolve.

A lengthy contract might lead to overlooked conditions during execution. Ambiguities may not be evident without legal expertise and could surface as problems during project progression. The non-exhaustiveness of contracts can become apparent post-signing or upon encountering issues.

Hence, establishing an administrative contract management system is crucial. This responsibility typically falls to the contract manager, who ensures clarity in roles and responsibilities, thereby mitigating risks and preventing project failure.

2. Managing relationships with parties involved

The contract manager plays a pivotal role in facilitating communication between parties, promoting transparency in general communication, change management, and negotiation.

2.1. Transparent communication

Open communication about risks and problems is crucial, especially in IT integration projects, to foresee and manage them appropriately.

2.2. Change communication

Careful and transparent communication is necessary when proposing changes, as they can destabilize project control. Common communication errors in change management, as identified by John Kotter[3], include underestimating the urgency, vision clarity, and obstacle management[4].

2.3. Negotiating commercial levers

Using contractual obligations as commercial levers can solidify the relationship between parties and prevent project failure.

3. Complaints management

Addressing customer complaints effectively is vital. The contract manager collaborates with management teams to provide appropriate responses, referencing the contract and proposing remedial solutions.

4. Performance assessment

Approaches to examining human error include focusing on individual actions or recognizing systemic factors described by James Reason[5]. Performance evaluation is crucial for identifying mistakes and updating project management processes to prevent failures.

For example, during the design phase, misunderstandings of customer requirements can lead to unsuitable developments. The evaluation phase should establish processes to identify divergences and avoid inappropriate developments, with agile methods like Scrum being effective solutions.

This approach enables the contract manager to keep IT projects on track and prevent failures.

Upcoming in our series on avoiding IT project failure:

  • #4 Project methodology for customer collaboration: Agile method.
  • #5 Tools for litigation avoidance.
  • #6 Litigation conduct.
  • #7 Types of expertise.

For any inquiries, please contact us.

[1] G. Leveau, "Practice of Contract Management," Gualino Eds, 2019, 3rd edition.

[2] Detailed legal framework available at Legifrance.

[3] J.P. Kotter, "Leading Change," Harvard Business Review Press, 2012, Chapter: "The Change Problem and its Solution."

[4] Kotter identifies eight common errors in change management in this work. We will focus on the six most relevant to IT project management.

[5] J. Reason, "Human Error: Models and Management," BMJ, Vol. 320, No. 7237, March 2000, pp. 768-770.

[6] The contract manager's role includes creating a project event repository for the company. They develop numerous tools for monitoring and controlling project execution in accordance with the contract, documenting events and their resolutions, listing risks, evaluating commercial levers, and proposing solutions to issues.