In previous posts I shared some of the findings and recommendations of industry focused research with senior international and domestic IT project stakeholders about the main causes of IT software development & implementation project misalignment and ensuing contract disputes. The research was in collaboration with NZIAC (the New Zealand International Arbitration Centre).
It led to the question “Can customised Mediation or the use of Dispute Review Boards resolve and reset IT Project contract disputes?”
A dominant research finding was that IT project misalignment can often be traced back to the initial exchanges between a customer and supplier in requirements scoping. A customer may not adequately scope its needs (e.g. change scope or resources) and the supplier solution is then selected in this context. Despite commercial efforts and robust mutual contracting, a course may be set for IT project misalignment.
Conversations with senior industry stakeholders, since we issued our research report, have highlighted that the nature of software and its procurement, development and implementation involves a level of exploration. Attributing project outcome to customer behaviour only or supplier behaviour only is not always black and white.
So, is there an engagement path, that once misalignment and a contract dispute ensues, can diffuse conflict and reset a customer and supplier on course for a successful project outcome?
A path that is an alternative to finding fault via the cost intensive processes of litigation or arbitration that are likely to lead to relationship and IT project termination?
We believe there is: IT project mediation.
With NZIAC, I am now designing an IT Mediation process to be part of IT Project Governance (as set out in a contracted IT project delivery statement of work or work order). It will centre on the use of a skilled, industry aware, neutral, credentialed mediator who is available from the commencement of an IT project.
Key elements are:
- The mediator can be deployed for contract disputes arising from specific IT project phases (e.g. requirements analysis or design or testing).
- It is a “time-out” (including as needed a short suspension of milestone compliance) to discuss with the mediator in confidence and without prejudice (i.e. whatever legal rights you have are preserved, such as termination rights or damages claims) your views and commercial and legal positions and to explore pathways to a commercial solution.
- Through a mediator’s process you may also decide, after talking with the mediator, to allow the mediator to share with the other party a view you hold that may promote a commercial solution.
- The process can be initiated at short notice and managed by the mediator in a short time frame.
- The estimated mediation costs can be shared as agreed in the IT project contract.
When busy stakeholders, with significant costs and revenue at risk, have explored commercially a resolution without success, this process offers them another way to solve the contract dispute. By achieving this we hope to improve the current modest success rates for IT projects as surveyed regularly and globally at scale by the Standish Group.
IT Mediation can be a cost-effective and time saving alternative to the fault finding processes of litigation or arbitration and assist in the successful progress of an IT project and the customer and supplier relationship.
I welcome your thoughts on this – please feel free to send your thoughts or get in touch.