Project Practitioners > Show Me the Reports

Show Me the Reports

By Ann Drinkwater

A few years ago I wrote about outsourcing considerations ( and another article on cultural considerations ( These ideas still hold true and possibly more so, in our ongoing efforts to do more with less. Ensuring we meet organizational objectives for the lowest cost possible requires thorough analysis and due diligence when choosing a vendor. I strongly believe the devil is in the detail when it comes to numerous areas, including contractor selection. Proposals you may receive when going through an RFP process, likely include standard/marketing content prepared by those employed to close the sale through written promises. During the selection process, prospective vendors may allow you to meet with existing customers, participate in demonstrations and other activities intended to sell themselves. I’ve discovered some less formal, yet very telling areas to consider when choosing a vendor.

  • Understand their Process – Carefully review the vendor’s approach to projects, solving business issues and overall addressing the customer’s needs is important. While proposals and packaged documentation may provide some insight, asking lots of leading questions and independent research is the best way to ensure you are aware of how things really work. In-person meetings for this type of discovery is best. This will allow for you to observe body language and see how easily and directly they can answer your questions.

  • Take Notice of Interactions – Is the vendor ever late for meetings? Do they loose track of conversations and other communication? If they do, this could mean a lot of things, one of them being they may lose track of important project details, once you sign the contract. Allow them to take the lead and articulate what they have discovered with your organization is a good way to gauge their ability to retain knowledge and their motivation towards meeting your needs.

  • Pay Close Attention to Details – Look at the company’s website. Do they have broken links on their site or incomplete functionality? Jokes about the shoemaker’s children not having shoes doesn’t make it right. Is the vendor complete in his/her communication? While it could mean they are so much in demand they don’t have time, it could also mean they are not strong planners. Do they pay attention to the details that make up all communication and tasks? I wrote the following article to express what I think should be followed:

  • Research Your Counterparts – Those with successful backgrounds, became that way because of their internal makeup, drive, ambition and focus. These attributes can be good indicators of your vendor team’s likelihood for future success. Success for you, on your project.

  • Review the Plan & Reports – The last, but my personal, new favorite, is to review project status reports BEFORE the contract is signed. Asking for samples of the project plan – communication, scope, schedule, risk, quality, reporting, etc. along with samples of what reports they plan to provide can shed enormous light. Seeing what a company plans to provide will show you their perspective on what they deem important, how they will track and manage your project. While this won’t guarantee success, the approach, insight and thought that is used to create this plan is symptomatic of how they will be to work with and more importantly, how they will deliver.  


~Ann Drinkwater

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