Every project manager is a contract administrator

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Every Project Manager Is A Contract Administrator

Fabio Teixeira de Melo, PMP Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico

As the project manager, you are responsible for change control. You put together a process for documenting requests and performing the changes. But how can you control changes when you are not aware that they happened?

The client’s team members will have direct contact with their peers in your team. Trying to satisfy the client, or being unaware of contractual obligations, a team member can agree to an extra training session, or even implement a change to the software, and forget to inform you – or alert you when it is too late. Some of those changes may be innocuous, but others could bring problems. For instance, silently altering part of the software features means the change may remain unmentioned in the software manual. This could lead to rewrites, reprinting, etc., with all the associated (an unbilled) time and cost.

One might feel tempted to prohibit interaction between members of the client’s and the contractor’s project teams, but that can jeopardize communication. Contracts don’t cover whether or not the client has the right to talk to your team members. And how can a project manager control whether the team members and the client are in contact?

To avoid undocumented changes being performed, every team member should be familiar with the contract, including aspects of scope, time and each party’s rights and dues. They should be prepared to analyze the client’s requests when preparing a contract perspective and know how to alert everyone to future changes. This requires that the change control and handling process be documented, and that they are familiar with it.

A workshop is a very effective tool to provide team members with knowledge about the most important contract aspects and the change control process. Hold this training the very beginning. Alternately, you may want to include a session about the subject in your internal kick-off meeting agenda. Either way, you should make sure that every project team member is informed.

Special attention must be given to third parties working for the project, such as providers, suppliers, or subcontractors. Controlling the client’s access to them is difficult and delicate, and in some cases they may have an independent business relationship with your client. It is not uncommon to see a subcontractor accept a Client’s request, perform it, and send the bill to you, the main contractor.

The best way to deal with this kind of problem is to avoid it. Talk to your providers and suggest they inform people involved in your project about the contractual aspects of your relation both with them and with the client. And introduce them to your change control process.

Remember: the success of a project is measured primarily by client satisfaction. The point is not to deny changes, but to control them. All your team members have to do about this is to detect a potential change and inform you through your change control process. This allows you to control the relationship with the client and to satisfy their needs without sacrificing time and cost.

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