The Vendor-Client Conundrum

Laura Dallas Burford is the founder of LAD Enterprizes, a management consulting firm that partners with consultants as well as internal and external consulting organizations to successfully build the operational and delivery aspects of their practices. Laura appreciates feedback on her articles and can be reached at laura@ladenterprizes.com. She is the author of Project Management for Flat Organizations.

Every vendor and client working together wants a successful project. However, every vendor and client views it from their own perspective using their own terminology. What each vendor and client might think is black and white about “the project” can actually be gray. For many vendors and clients, recognizing and accepting the gray is a conundrum. Even harder for many vendors and clients is the resolution to the conundrum because it requires aligning each others' perspective for the good of the project; it requires flexibility and change as well as collaboration and communication.

The Scenario
At a networking event, a project manager asked me, “What do you think is the ‘most important’ project constraint?” The project manager was a road warrior implementing the same application softwarefrom client to client. He had always been successful, but his current client was concerned with the project’s progress and he was struggling to understand his client’s concerns. I offered a textbook response: “The importance of a constraint varies project by project. I tend to focus on the triple constraints--scope, time and cost. My experience is that if I can keep the scope, time and cost in balance, my chances for project success increase.” I was surprised when the project manager adamantly said: “I disagree. The …

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