How do you pay for stuff on your project? We talk about preparing a procurement plan, but what are your options?
I’ve always found that having clear payment terms and a structure for the payments makes planning a lot easier. When I know when invoices are due or what deliverable is attached to what payment milestone, I can queue up conversations with Finance so they are ready to pay what is often a sizeable invoice.
There are 3 phases to consider when structuring a payment plan for your project:
- Before the project deliverables are fully complete
- When the project deliverables are fully complete
- Post-project follow up.
This is how they look when you put them into practice.
Before the deliverables are fully complete
This is the project execution phase, the stage where you are working collaboratively on creating the deliverables.
This is where my contracts often have stage payments so the vendor gets something before the end – useful for keeping motivation high and helping them pay their costs on a long project. After all, they need to be able to operate their business to support yours.
Generally, you’d want to make those payment milestones meaningful and relevant to the project. For example, you could set the payments to go out on completion of milestones that start generating benefit for the project.
Alternatively, do what we did and just split them by project lifecycle stage, so a payment is due on completion of the discovery/scoping and requirements finalisation, then another one during build and the final one on completion.
On the largest contract I’ve been involved with, we had multiple delivery point payment milestones as it was a long project.
When the project deliverables are fully complete
This is the point where you’d do the final payments related to the services or goods they are providing on the project.
All the doing is done, so you pay them for the work delivered. In practice, this is often the final stage payment.
Post-project follow up
There might be post-deliverable payments to make, for example any maintenance costs or ongoing service contracts that come into effect once the main delivery part of the project is wrapped up.
Perhaps this is a payment point that then initiates another round of payments for Phase 2 or subsequent work, or you might have written into the contract a mechanism for paying for additional work through change control.
At this point, if the project is done, you’d normally be handing over any open contracts to the operational team who will deal with the ongoing supplier relationship moving forward. Just document what you know and hand it over to them with any paperwork.
Ultimately, commercial relationships need to be beneficial for both parties, so it is helpful to work with the supplier in partnership to work out a reasonable payment scale. We involved lawyers on both sides to draft out the documentation and help with the negotiation because it was a big investment and we wanted it to be right.
Putting the time and effort in to working out suitable payment milestones, stage payments, processes for change and so on meant that the working relationship going forward was pretty smooth. Both sides knew what to expect and we had documented approaches for dealing with changes and disputes. Plus, from a project management perspective, I knew exactly what would trigger a stage payment and I could plan for the acceptance paperwork so we were ready.