A Software Development company was awarded a Government Grant to complete the research and development and proof of concept for a new product over a 15 month period. The company signed a contract that detailed strict governance and reporting requirements for the R&D and Proof of Concept deliverables.
The contract required the company to clearly demonstrate that progress was in accordance with the endorsed schedule and that Government funds were being spent in the agreed manner.
The development team included some team members who were splitting their time between the project and on-going tasks. In addition, some contractors were completing work remotely from the remainder of the team.
- Meeting milestones in terms of time, cost and quality
- Proactively managing the work so variances from the agreed schedules were identified early enough for remedial action to be taken.
- Identifying, managing and solving the many issues that need to be addressed
- Communicating and demonstrating contract compliance without a lot of extra work.
- Keeping everyone in the team informed in close to real-time, so everyone was focused and no time or effort was wasted.
- Documenting work in terms of effort and progress plus key issues solved.
- Creating an credible audit trail
Tools to Manage Contracts
A review of contract management methods and tools revealed a wide range of tools (such as project management, time sheeting, time management, contract management software). The major problem was tools were poorly integrated with no clear coordinating method. In addition, the training required in the range of tools directly reduces the time available to complete the main tasks (detailed as milestones in the Contract).
The company used TASKey TEAM real-time task and team management software to manage the R&D and Proof of Concept work and to concurrently manage the Contract. Training for each user was minimal (1/2 a day) and critical data was entered by each user at the location and in the context where they were completing their work. Coordination and feedback were automatic, so users were able to focus on the job (without spending a lot of time in coordination meetings and telling people what they were doing).
TASKey TEAM proved to be relatively simple to administer. Initially there was some resistance to entering data about what a user was doing, however this hassle was offset by:
- the clearer direction available,
- simple ToDo lists that make it easy to see what needs to be done,
- fast feedback when an event occurs that affects the user,
- automatic progress reporting and reduced need to tell others what you are doing, and
- little preparation time required for audits.
The key to TASKey TEAM is that it captures and coordinates the work being done. This is a significant point, because tools (such as project management) manage at the more summarised task level. Actions/ToDos are left to each individual to manage as they see fit. Leaving action/ToDo management to individuals makes coordination extremely difficult, whereas TASKey TEAM automatically coordinates work at this â€œdoingâ€ level.
Task and action/ToDo data was entered progressively and TASKey TEAM automatically kept this data synchronised (an almost impossible task to achieve manually). Consequently no effort was required for audits, because the required data was readily available. In fact, a compliance audit was completed by the Government department with all data being provided out of TASKey TEAM (including time sheets).
Return on Investment
The Return on Investment was that a potentially complex contract was managed relatively simply with clearly demonstrable compliance and a minimum of stress. Little time was spent on coordination, so effort was focused on completing deliverables.
Savings were achieved from:
- The number of coordination meetings was at least halved and actions agreed in the meeting were immediately electronically distributed to relevant peopleâ€™s ToDo List. As action/ToDos were completed this was automatically recorded against the meeting for a 7x24 review of progress.
- Documentation was done in context as the work was being done. Data quality and quantity was significantly better than recollections some time after the event.
- Training time and frustration was significantly reduced because complex coordination was done by the software. Event based feedback kept all team members informed of changes that affected them.
- Progress was based on actions completed (not estimates of % complete), so accountability was enhanced.
- The contract management processes employed were automatically documented, so they can be easily templated in the future. These templates store actual corporate experience and provide a sound basis for continuous improvement.
- Team members who were remote from the core team were kept informed and received feedback in close to real-time.
- The project manager received real-time updates (via Blackberry) even when overseas. This significantly reduced questioning about what was happening and what has been done.
There are many intangibles like transparency, a disciplined process, and better decisions based on timely relevant information.
The key was that the Contract was managed in some detail by a diverse team and the contract management process was credible and effective for all stakeholders.