6 challenges (and solutions) for acquisition projects 

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You probably know the saying, “all beginnings are difficult”. But if you have a little bit of experience with acquisition projects (or projects in general), you probably also know, that it is not necessarily just the beginning that can prove problematic. Actually, the entire life cycle of the project can be marked by challenges right from the demand arises, until the delivery is put into operation.  

Some particular challenges are often repeated across organizations and businesses. Luckily, these can be pre-empted through thorough preliminary work. But this entails, that you know where to jump in and when. In this section, our consultant Inge Hansen will list 6 typical challenges in acquisition projects – and how to overcome the challenges! 

  1. You disagree on your scope

Maybe you believe that everyone agrees on, what you need to deliver in your project. And in general terms, you probably do agree. But as soon as you move down to a detail-level, you discover, that you are actually in wild disagreement about how you can best solve the project’s challenges. And you realize that you might not agree at all on what your problem actually is, and what you need to deliver.  

Solution: Create a common understanding for the project and draw up a framework. Yes, it seems simple, but make sure to clarify the differing perceptions right from the from the start. You can do this by framing the project in a way where there is no confusion around output, the expected timeframe, scope or limits, as well as available resources. This ensures, that all stakeholder expectations are met before you begin finding suppliers.  

  1. You are not getting the most out of your investment  

Your knowledge of the market is most likely influenced by the knowledge gained from your current or previous suppliers. This can risk limiting your search of the market, and thereby lead to a supplier agreement which does not give you the biggest possible return.  

Solution: Become familiar with the entire market. Make sure to do a broad market uncovering, which is not solely based on the connections you made with a previous supplier. In this way, you become familiar with both what the market can generally deliver, and which solutions would best benefit your particular investment. This also increases familiarity with your project in the market and can motivate more suppliers to weigh in on the task. This also increases competition. 

  1. There are disagreements about the delivery 

You have found the right supplier. But just when you think you can get started, it turns out, that you disagree on, what it is you need to deliver – and how much. Because while the supplier thinks that everything revolves around the acquisition itself, you expect education and tests to be part of the delivery. Or maybe it is the other way around. Regardless, you risk being stuck with a contract that does not deliver exactly what you need.  

Solution: Create a (very) detailed requirement specification. No stone should be left unturned and no element should go undiscussed. Remember, that if something is not specified in the contract, the supplier is not obligated to deliver it to you. Furthermore, they can be limited in their ability to deliver to you cf. tendering law requirements for competitive exposure. So, it is really a good investment of time and resources to put together an airtight requirement specification. 

  1. The implementation falls between two stools 

The implementation-scope and complexity of the delivery varies greatly from project to project. And unfortunately, it is not always obvious who should be in charge of what. In the worst-case scenario it can end with nobody really taking ownership, and the desired implementation of the delivery therefore not being arranged. 

Solution: Clarify the implementation in the statement of requirements. Already when creating your statement of requirements should you make considerations about the elements, that have to form a part of the implementation: waterfall/agile, test, quality, change management etc. If the supplier is in charge of the implementation, it is also a good idea to require ongoing access to verification of progress and course. This can for example be in the form of requirements for pilotage or requirements for the right to inspection or participation in test courses.  

  1. A mistake happens in the transition to operation  

If all you receive is an e-mail that states: “The project is now finished and will transition to operation”, something has gone wrong. The commissioning should not come as a surprise to the customer, but instead be implemented through a transition phase, where operation and project goes together to carry out a handover within a controlled process. This of course requires thorough planning, which you need to prioritize.  

Solution: Involve commissioning early in your project. Create a list of criteria, which need to be met prior to commissioning. These can for example be education or a maintenance-plan etc. It is a very good idea to make it a requirement in the contract that the supplier needs to involve commissioning early in the project, so they can give advice about how commissioning should be handled. In this way you avoid being surprised, when commissioning starts.   

  1. Good collaboration is challenged  

Good collaboration is not only characterized by a good atmosphere between you and your supplier. An important factor is also, how you handle when problems in your collaborative relationship inevitably arise. This can be a complicated affair, if you do not reserve your position on this at the beginning of your collaborative relationship.  

Solution: Have measures built into your contract. Make sure, that the contract ensures a clear division of roles and responsibility between customer and supplier throughout the duration of the contract. Then, everyone knows the scope of their responsibilities, and what the consequences are if the conditions are not met. The contract also needs to involve requirements for things such as meeting-activities and reporting, so you can minimize escalation of problems. This gives you a clear protocol for how you should tackle problems along the way.  

Do you need counselling?  

At Peak we have hands-on experience with the entire life cycle of projects about material and IT-acquisitions. If you are currently faced with an acquisition project and need extern counselling in market uncovering, requirement specifications, contract management, and more, we are ready to help you!   

You probably know the saying, “all beginnings are difficult”. But if you have a little bit of experience with acquisition projects (or projects in general), you probably also know, that it is not necessarily just the beginning that can prove problematic

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