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Topics: Information Technology, Leadership, New Practitioners
How would you suggest I handle a vendor who prefers to answer to a team member rather than the project manager/sponsor?
I am the project manager of a small software development project. I have a member of my team who has a friendship with the consultant/owner who has one the contract to develop the final product. I am also the individual who has signed off on the contract. The dilemma is that the consultant prefers to take direction from my team member rather than myself. I have asked the consultant to cease including this team member on our email discussions that involves topics that I have had with my managers. Yet, he continues to do so. How would you suggest that I handle this matter as the PM? Please note that the team member is not innocent in this situation!
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It depends on your company's governance process and the terms of the contract.

At my own employer, that would earn the employee disciplinary action and the supplier could be subject to penalties under the contract including potentially contract termination and being barred from future contracts. We get mandatory training on this annually.

I would speak with the employee's manager regarding how they are not authorized representatives of the company and are giving the appearance of making contractual agreements with the vendor on behalf of your company.

I would also speak with the vendor and inform them that the employee has no authorization to act in this manner, that their agreements are not binding, and remind them of the terms of the contract.
Would it be productive to make this a training/mentoring opportunity for the team member? Work with your management to make it official and set boundaries with the vendor, team member, and management that the team member will be measured on. Establish criteria for what will get your "mentee" a favorable review at the end.

I don't know if this will work, but it has the potential to put you in control of the situation and minimize negative politics. You might talk to your boss, first, to see if this would work at your company, if you're not sure.
Friendship of your team member with the consultant is enforcing his trust in the project. Be careful about developing a strategy to have an adequate interaction between these stakeholders. Maybe a private meeting with the consultant is necessary to explain the privacy of information between you, him and your superior managers. For others aspects of the project, you maybe have no problem to include your team member in the conversations, gaining confidence of the external stakeholder.
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1 reply by Donald Ragland
Feb 14, 2020 10:12 PM
Donald Ragland
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Thanks for your response Veronica! Please note that I have had a conversation with the consultant about the importance of privacy associated with discussions between he, myself and my superiors, but he insists on having the team member included in these discussions, especially via emails because the team member has requested this inclusion of him. Presently, the consultant will not return my calls or emails if the team member is not included.
What are the disadvantages of consultants contacting team members directly?
Do you communicate this to consultants and team members?
If there are no specific inconveniences, it would be very efficient for the consultant to contact the team members directly.
You only need to intervene when the discussion is about to go wrong, so you can focus your resources on other important requirements.
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1 reply by Donald Ragland
Feb 14, 2020 10:33 PM
Donald Ragland
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Thanks for your response Takeshi! Please note that this team member is expecting to be involved with the logistics of overseeing the project, not just his involvement with technical discussions. As the PM of the project, it is my responsibility to disseminate any information obtained from my superiors to my team members. So, yes, I do share this information with the team. Also, keep in mind that only this team member is having direct communications with the consultant, no other team member. He then comes back to the team and recites what discussions have taken place with him and the consultant and their consensus regarding the topics discussed. It's confusing to the team overall who is leading the project. Is it me? Am I being a control freak? Thanks!
Feb 14, 2020 7:15 PM
Replying to Verónica Elizabeth Pozo Ruiz
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Friendship of your team member with the consultant is enforcing his trust in the project. Be careful about developing a strategy to have an adequate interaction between these stakeholders. Maybe a private meeting with the consultant is necessary to explain the privacy of information between you, him and your superior managers. For others aspects of the project, you maybe have no problem to include your team member in the conversations, gaining confidence of the external stakeholder.
Thanks for your response Veronica! Please note that I have had a conversation with the consultant about the importance of privacy associated with discussions between he, myself and my superiors, but he insists on having the team member included in these discussions, especially via emails because the team member has requested this inclusion of him. Presently, the consultant will not return my calls or emails if the team member is not included.
Feb 14, 2020 8:24 PM
Replying to Takeshi Miyaoka
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What are the disadvantages of consultants contacting team members directly?
Do you communicate this to consultants and team members?
If there are no specific inconveniences, it would be very efficient for the consultant to contact the team members directly.
You only need to intervene when the discussion is about to go wrong, so you can focus your resources on other important requirements.
Thanks for your response Takeshi! Please note that this team member is expecting to be involved with the logistics of overseeing the project, not just his involvement with technical discussions. As the PM of the project, it is my responsibility to disseminate any information obtained from my superiors to my team members. So, yes, I do share this information with the team. Also, keep in mind that only this team member is having direct communications with the consultant, no other team member. He then comes back to the team and recites what discussions have taken place with him and the consultant and their consensus regarding the topics discussed. It's confusing to the team overall who is leading the project. Is it me? Am I being a control freak? Thanks!
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1 reply by Takeshi Miyaoka
Feb 16, 2020 7:07 PM
Takeshi Miyaoka
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As a prerequisite, the linking of information through informal meetings should not be ruled out, as it can be helpful in smoothing out the project.
The problem is when this informal meeting causes specific inconvenience, such as defaulting on matters decided at the formal meeting.
This time, however, the unofficial content seems to be confusing to the project, so I think there is definitely a problem.
I think you may want to consult with a senior executive and consider ways to encourage improvement.
I am in line with @Keith comments above. No matter that, you can not stop they will talk "off the record" then you have to think about a strategy on that matter.
Thanks for your response Sergio!
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1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Feb 15, 2020 2:31 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
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You are welcome. Keeping calm and self-confidence is the basis. And make everyone understand, especially the consultant, that as the sage said "you must take care of the steps of the stairs you climb, because by them you will go down"
Feb 15, 2020 2:24 AM
Replying to Donald Ragland
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Thanks for your response Sergio!
You are welcome. Keeping calm and self-confidence is the basis. And make everyone understand, especially the consultant, that as the sage said "you must take care of the steps of the stairs you climb, because by them you will go down"
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1 reply by Donald Ragland
Feb 15, 2020 2:35 AM
Donald Ragland
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Thank you!
Feb 15, 2020 2:31 AM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
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You are welcome. Keeping calm and self-confidence is the basis. And make everyone understand, especially the consultant, that as the sage said "you must take care of the steps of the stairs you climb, because by them you will go down"
Thank you!
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