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June 6, 2019

Why Quality Assurance is Crucial to IT Vendor Management

By Cameron Hickerson, Project Coordinator, PMP at SiteREADY

Detailed technology standards and specifications are the foundation of any successful implementation, but it’s not enough to have these standards in place without also establishing protocols to ensure your technology vendors are actually adhering to them across every phase of the project. A robust quality assurance (QA) process lays the groundwork for a safe and efficient workplace build-out.

How can you be sure your subcontractors are using best practices to deliver on time and within budget? From choosing the right team to keeping everyone moving if or when things veer off course, here are a few ideas to consider for a high-quality build-out:

Start with Vendors You Can Trust

Effective vendor management begins with assembling a team of capable, trustworthy vendors. We could talk all day about how to adjust when things go wrong (and we will get to that), but a thorough procurement process is the best way to prevent costly mistakes from happening in the first place. While you’ll absolutely have to exercise QA procedures throughout the duration of the project, having faith in your project team from the get-go is a must.

That said, even the best subcontractors can’t be everywhere at once while maintaining high-quality work. For this reason, it is critical to have a network of qualified, vetted partners you can rely on. Part of our job at SiteREADY is to oversee the vendor selection process and ensure each chosen provider is able to dedicate the time and resources needed for the project at hand.

QA Isn’t a One-Off Task

QA procedures for a service like IT vendor management are much more fluid than those of product QA or QC, in which a one-and-done checklist system is used to determine whether items meet the necessary specifications for distribution. In a workplace build-out, vendor management must be an ongoing process, requiring a holistic approach to ensure everyone is consistently completing their tasks to the agreed upon scope. The scrutiny of a knowledgeable Infrastructure Lead or IT Project Manager is critical to preventing Change Orders and other time- or cost-prohibitive setbacks.

Beware of the Domino Effect

A successful build-out requires everyone to work collectively to move the project forward. In many cases, the commencement of one task is contingent upon the completion of one prior, which means if one group falls behind or has a mishap, it can impact all the other vendors relying on that portion of the project in order to perform their work. If, for example, the conduit pathway between the Main Point of Entry (MPOE) and the IT Room isn’t in place, the low-voltage subcontractor can’t extend the network circuit from the point of demarcation (demarc) to provide internet connectivity. And if the mistake wasn’t caught until after the overhead inspection and ceiling closure, you’ve likely got even bigger (and more expensive) setbacks to attend to.

QA Minimizes Change Orders 

Change Orders, or changes to the scope of a construction project, are, to some degree, inevitable. While a budget and timeline are established at the beginning of a build-out with the best of intentions, there are various factors that can affect the project scope. Some reasons for Change Orders are beyond our control (think weather delays, unanticipated site conditions, etc.), while others can be caused by errors and omissions by the project team.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Change Orders cause delays. And when they happen frequently, they not only become extremely costly, but they can start to negatively impact the reputations of the parties involved. As project managers, our aim is delivering on what we were contracted to do—in the way that we promised—and we need to be guiding our vendors so that they can hit each milestone within the agreed upon timeline. This way, everyone is covered.

Course Correct with an Effective QA Strategy

Despite our best efforts, sometimes, mistakes happen. But it’s how we address them that often makes the difference between success and failure. If a vendor makes a mistake, the best bet is to first refer to the terms of the original agreement—if someone has agreed to deliver something to a certain standard and has failed to do so, it’s an objective breach of contract. But if a mistake was significant enough to warrant a request for a Change Order, there tends to be a natural understanding on the part of the vendor that the issue needs to be fixed quickly. 

The QA component here is in planning for the future. There needs to be a plan in place to prevent these types of issues from happening again. This might involve more frequent check-ins or inspections throughout each phase of a project or, depending on the severity of the previous mistakes (e.g., not using the materials or equipment that had been specified), it may mean making improvements to the procurement process, including asking more targeted questions, such as:

What’s Your QA Plan?

Developing and executing an appropriate QA plan is a hefty undertaking no matter how big or small the scope of your build-outs. A trusted partner like SiteREADY can work with you to assemble and manage the right team throughout the duration of a project. We are committed to saving you money by making sure things are done correctly from the start. Learn more about our IT vendor management services.

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