I wanted to thank for guys for helping the PM Profession and also for helping me to become a better manager.

Currently, I have a poor relationship with an external vendor that delivers buggy code and sometimes does not meet the scheduled dates.

This external vendor knows that my company would have to spend a fortune to rip out their product and replace it, so they don't seem to have any interest at improving the relationship.

Is it possible to correct this relationship?


Mark's picture


Sure it is. I'll want to hear from other members who have dealt with recalcitrant vendors, particularly those in entrenched technical positions.

Most external relationships run on two tracks - personal relationships, and professional standards. Some are almost entirely built on relationships, usually with a person on one side or the other doing the heavy lifting to keep the relationship effective (in the minds of the participants). Sometimes there are two people working at it, usually suggesting that the relationship preexisted the professional connection.

Some are strictly professional, with little personal effort involved. It's all about standards, and value for cash, etc.

Neither is inherently "better", because the relationship can only be fairly evaluated by the members, and their motives well be inscrutable.

To repair a relationship, then, usually I recommend addressing BOTH of the tenets.

Start by reaching out to the vendor. There are all kinds of ways to do this. I generally recommend that the customer travel to the vendor's site with the expressed intent of rejuvenating the connection, and doing a review. Explicit in the visit is personal relationship building/re-building. This often happens at dinner, breakfast, lunch, drinks, shots of tequila or sake, or take out Chinese in a conference.

During the business portion of the meeting, present measures and reports about the failures of their work, missed deadlines, etc. I assume you have this data such that you can present it without its provenance being assailed.

There's hours more here, but basically, you CAN say, "I want to get to know you guys. I like you. I want to trust you completely. AND, I expect this stuff to get done."

You can also do all of this over the phone, with increased contacts, and personal outreach (literally make outreach and connection a project, and schedule the tasks, like sending them sports tickets(please don't attack the example)).

And, as things progress, make the measurements applied to the professional standards more demanding, clearer, and easier to see and report on.

There are friends of mine who call this "carrot and stick", but that's a fairly lowbrow characterization of what amounts to standard relationship triage.

Let me know if this helps.