Most projects are a combination of tasks, resources and material. Often that material is bought in i.e. supplied from outside the organization by people that have an expertise in manufacturing or distributing that particular product.

In order to establish a successful project – Project Managers need to be adept at dealing with external suppliers successfully. Dealing with external suppliers (whether they are a vendor, contract or consultancy) often requires different management skills than how you may co-ordinate internal resource.

Material requirements might fall into different camps i.e.

  • Commercially available material that can just be bought i.e. Microsoft Office
  • Material that requires some form of support from the supplier (either through design / configuration) i.e. buying a ERP software suite

In some organizations you might find that you need to comply with company procedures with regards to supplier selection (and certainly in placing purchase orders). Much of the process you’ll need to follow will no doubt depend on the value of the goods/services that you will be buying in.

When dealing with external suppliers into your project heres’ a list of things to remember.

1/ Do you have a plan for how that supplier will be used.

2/ Are you clear about your requirements

3/ Do you have a clear view on who will manage the supplier and who your points of contact are within the supplier (including any points of escalation you might need).

3/ Have you incorporated the supplier activity into you plan and is it “backed off” i.e. agreed with the supplier that they can achieve your timescales

4/ Have they provided input into your risk management process

5/ Have you agreed the criteria for assessing how you’ll know when there work is complete

6/ Have you agreed payment terms i.e. milestones up front

7/ Have you agreed the process if something goes wrong?

8/ Do you understand your inputs into the supplier in order to get the required performance.P

Working with and managing external suppliers on your project can be complex and there are numerous things you need to think about before you get stuck in. As a project manager you’ll need to consider your relationships and strategy in dealing with this group of resources (as you would any other stakeholder).

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