The Dirty Half-Dozen

The Dirty Half-Dozen

5. Uncooperative Business Partners

What can go wrong: Texas-based, drug distributor FoxMeyer filed for bankruptcy in 1996. The company partially blamed a failed ERP project and sued its software vendor, SAP, as well as Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). The case is pending. While the FoxMeyer case is extreme, most of today's sizeable IT projects involve a vendor of some sort - be it a software company, a system integrator, a consultancy or all of the above. When they're wooing you, those companies say they're your partner. They're not. No matter how much they want your project to succeed or how honourable their intentions, they have pressures of their own.

Moreover, within your business, "there's resistance and resentment over outsiders coming in and the money being paid to those outsiders. That is an impediment to sharing information", Portny says.

What you can do about it: First, try to negotiate a contract that minimises consultant turnover. Corporate IT pros who've worked with system integrators are painfully familiar with the bait-and-switch practice wherein the system integrator's "A Team" flies in for presales meetings and launch - then promptly hands the project off to a less experienced, and perhaps less skilled, crew.

And when working on that contract, DeMarco says, it's important to eschew take-no-prisoners negotiating and move instead toward a reasonable, achievable agreement. "There's this attitude today that the negotiating's not over until the other guy's screwed," he says. "This is foolish. These aren't adversaries, these are your partners."

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