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Posts Tagged ‘Vendor management’

Have you ever built something that didn’t come out quite as expected?? :>)

Of course you have. Join the club.

In a recent post about successful project management, I explained the fact that we need to carefully define all aspects of the project, because we each have different meanings of words floating around in our heads (I call this the “mental metadata” issue).

Your idea of a “module” may be quite different from mine – your mental hashtags may not match mine at all, though we are using the same word. Misunderstandings like this derail many a project.

Closely related to reaching agreement on the meaning of words is this next step – being sure our expectations are aligned.

I wish I knew who to credit with this brilliant graphic, because I use it all the time in my Vendor/Project Management workshop, and it never fails to elicit a knowing chuckle:

how-the-pm

Learning how to properly describe and scope out a project is one of the key ingredients to success. The trainer/project manager needs to pro-actively work with internal stakeholders and external vendors to make sure that there is a clear roadmap, with a well-described deliverable at the end – BEFORE any work begins!

In fact, I challenge project managers to drive agreement by distilling the essence of the project – its key expectations, including business outcomes – down to a simple, one-sentence summary:

one-sentence

Contact us here at Impactiviti to discuss how we can help your department move toward best practices in project and vendor management (AskSteve@Impactiviti.com; 973-947-7429).

See also: 5 Compelling Reasons to provide Project Management Training

 

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Here in the Life Sciences training arena, we have a steady flow of people moving from the field to the home office, often involving a rotation in Sales Training.

This can be a great thing for professional development.

However, one the areas of need often pinpointed for on-boarding and developmental training is Project/Vendor Management. See the graphic below:

pm-train-2

Why is Project Management competency so important? Here are 5 reasons:

  1. Sales people moving into roles of training/management have been trained in selling skills, but rarely in operational/process skills like Project Management.
  2. Managing projects and vendors is a high-profile activity involving lots of budget dollars. Failed execution can deeply impact the reputation of the trainer and the department.
  3. PM training equips training managers with communication skills, and collaboration strategies, that will carry over into all subsequent leadership roles.
  4. Those new to managing projects and vendors need proven tools, procedures, and frameworks in order to succeed.
  5. PM training provides a standardized set of processes and a common language so that the entire department can reinforce best practices.

Successfully managing projects and vendors is learning, in a collaborative environment, how to move an initiative forward from A to B. This is a much needed corporate skill, and should not be left to chance or good intentions. Focused training is required.

twoformspm

Of course, not all project management training is equal. Impactiviti has devoted years to developing and customizing modules that are precisely aligned to commercial life sciences training professionals. This training can be delivered live (on-site), or virtually (or both).

Contact us to discuss how we can help your department move toward best practices in project and vendor management (AskSteve@Impactiviti.com).

 

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The Star Wars Rogue One movie comes out this week, so what better time to discuss moving over to the “Dark Side” than today?

(for those not yet in the know, sometimes training professionals within life sciences companies take on new career roles with vendor-providers. This is, tongue-in-cheek, referred to as moving to the Dark Side!)

darkside

In the Life Sciences industry, there’s a close collaboration between people in Training and Development departments, and their outside vendors. In fact, many people cross over from one side to another at points in their career – some for a season, and others permanently.

 Life is not the same on both sides of this fence. We discussed what it is like to launch a consultancy in an earlier post, but for this article, I’ve interviewed three industry professionals who have worked on both the client and the vendor side. Here is the question we’re working with: what are the main lessons learned about the nature of work once we leave the training department and join the “Dark Side”?

andreapagnozziAccording to Andrea Pagnozzi (who has done multiple stints in training within pharma and medical device companies, and also worked for a time with a training vendor), one of the biggest realizations was how many people, and moving parts, were involved in developing training on the vendor side. While clients within T&D departments only see a few faces (typically an account manager and a project manager), there is, in fact, a whole host of professionals involved in a tightly-choreographed dance behind the scenes. Most vendors don’t burden their clients with all those details, and rightly so; however, it is important to remember that every change or delay in a project has ripple effects in the workflow behind the scenes.

Having worked on the vendor side for many years, I know about this first hand. To help clients understand, I often show a picture of the inner workings of a clock – you know, the old-fashioned kind with lots of gears – to build awareness that there is just as much complexity and collaboration on a project on one side of the fence as there is on the other. That’s why a detailed project plan is so important – it keeps everyone on track so that the development process does not spin out of control.

davidboyleDavid Boyle, who has worn a variety of hats within large life sciences companies as well as with training vendors, stated that he has ended up learning far more about learning development from being on the vendor side. Those who cycle into training roles in pharma/biotech/med device organizations often only receive a bare minimum amount of training in project management and instructional design, and many times are not empowered to take a holistic view of existing training assets compared to the short-term necessities of the project at hand. As an outside supplier, David has found that he can often take a more strategic view of any given project and approach the needs more thoroughly. This underscores how important it can be to allow vendors to serve as strategic partners, and to bring their expertise and outside view to bear. This approach can end up saving enormous amounts of time and effort.

sueiannoneSue Iannone has occupied many leadership roles in major training organizations over the years, having worked on countless initiatives both small and large. Recently, Sue took on a leadership role with a vendor/partner, and her input to me revolved around how absolutely crucial it is (for both sides!) to arrive at a very clear project definition. Most of the time, we tend to have a basket of problems on our minds, which, when unloaded on a vendor, may lead to a lack of clarity. Sue suggests a strategic definition session when appropriate, perhaps including a whiteboard, to try to narrow down the scope of the project and arrive at the true strategic business imperatives. This approach helps clients to get exactly what they need.

Those who know me well know that I often promote the phrase, “You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in.” One of the most valuable roles a vendor can play is to bring outside perspective and holistic thinking. All of us get too involved in our own forest and trees, and working more closely with smart and collaborative vendors in the definition process will always lead to greater success.

One interesting point that those on the vendor/partner side bring up is that the opportunity set is different when working with provider companies. Vendors tend to be much leaner, and generally value creativity and initiative more than conformity and narrow focus. The pace is faster, the hats you wear are more varied, and the “cocoon” of infrastructure that one often enjoys on the inside of a client company just isn’t there. Moving in one direction or the other can be scary for some, but refreshing and empowering for others. In either case, it’s a great growing experience!

More in the Impactiviti Interview series:

Training Journey – From Major Pharma to Startup

Training for the New World of Specialty Pharma

Becoming a Consultant – Should You?

Two Keys to Successful Product Launches

Clinical Training Innovation at Depomed

Development of Field Leadership at Gilead Sciences – “Touchpoints”

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I had a call recently from one of my preferred training partners, letting me know that a proposed project which had been put on hold some months ago was suddenly resurrected, and is now about to kick off. Awesome – I love that!

Sometimes client needs end up on uncomfortably longer-than-expected timetables, right? So, once a vendor-partner has had a helpful conversation to scope out a potential project, and they’ve submitted a proposal, how should they follow up?

50 shades follow up

I am asked this regularly by my partner companies, and here is my standard advice:

  1. Don’t panic. Initiatives, and even responses to inquiries, just get delayed.
  2. Don’t pester. By and large, clients dislike that. The follow-up process shouldn’t be punishment for expressing interest.
  3. Gently inquire as to the status on an occasional (and by this I don’t mean twice-weekly!) basis. Make it a very succinct e-mail or VM – not an extended sales pitch.
  4. For all prospects with whom you hope to develop a good relationship, occasionally forward interesting and value-adding resources and news items relevant to them or their company. No pitch – just, “thought you might like to see this.” It’s a valuable way to stay top-of-mind.
  5. If you’re going to be in the area geographically, offer to meet for coffee or lunch. Not a capabilities presentation. Just talk. And see if you can make connections and introductions for your client within your network.

follow up 2

I was on the vendor side for years, and carried plenty of sales responsibilities over the past 3 decades, so I know the pressure. But you have to take the long view. I cultivated a friendship with one individual whom I got to know a long time ago (2 or 3 companies ago for him!), and with whom I stayed in touch even though there was little or no immediate business. And then, a referral door opened up into a very large new business opportunity. Had I been a high-pressure pest, that likely would never had happened.

Add value. Not pressure.

Here was one client’s take recently: I hate being oversold and told that they can do everything. Trying to hard to get the business. I also don’t want to get 100 calls and emails; my time is precious.”

That’s my take – now, what about yours, training professionals? What do you prefer, or dislike, as far as a follow-up procedure from a vendor? Add your input in the comments so that your vendor-partners can benefit from your advice!

(P.S. From the vendor side of the equation, this input): One helpful piece of feedback from a vendor perspective to clients:  Please respond to the inquiry or follow-up. It is sometimes the case that a vendor puts in a tremendous amount of effort in developing a proposed solution to a stated need. In follow-up the client goes totally silent. The courtesy of a short email, such as “thanks for the follow-up and the proposal it is much appreciated. Priorities have changed slightly I will be back in touch in a few days/weeks/months” would be extremely helpful. Right now we’re seeing a trend toward shorter response cycles for more complex requirements, accompanied by very poor client feedback (or none at all).

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What is the Impactiviti network? It is where Steve Woodruff helps life sciences training professionals get clear on their outsource needs, and get connected to optimal vendor-partners.

This unique “matchmaking” network works so well because Steve also helps training vendors get clear on their message, and get connected to new training clients.

Steve is the eHarmony of the Life Sciences Training community, saving everyone from wasted time and effort.

Working on new training initiatives? Whatever you need, ask Steve!

Our training consultations are free – just ask Steve at steve@stevewoodruff.com.

 

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Certainly, there are interpersonal and relational aspects of a client/vendor relationship that are vital to long-term partnership success. After all, who wants to work with a jerk or an insenstive boor (on either side)? ;>}

But those skills are not enough to make projects go smoothly. One of the most important practices that any client can cultivate is a great process for spelling out project requirements.

Here is a very helpful article on the outsourcing process (including a good definition of the acronyms RFI/RFQ/RFP), reinforcing many of the skills and behaviors that I have seen work well over the years.

A pull quote:

The quality of proposals you receive will only be as good as the RFPs you send to them. If you do a poor job of articulating your needs, the supplier must speculate and make assumptions. Being vague communicates to the supplier that you are not sure of your own needs. Your objective is to get the supplier to put forth their best proposal.

Read the whole article. There is an art and science to drawing up good proposals, and projects often go off the rails not because the developer is “bad,” but because there simply weren’t enough details to get on the right track.

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In the commercial training arena for life sciences (pharma, biotech, diagnostics, medical devices), we do a lot of outsourcing to vendor-partner companies.

I worked for one of those partner companies for 10 years, and, for the last 9 years, have served as an intermediary between life sciences training professionals and outsource vendors.

I’ve seen good. I’ve seen bad. And I’ve seen ugly.

So, how can you partner more successfully with your vendor/partners?

Let me give you three top perspectives, and then offer you a Top 10 download list:

1. Always bear in mind that vendors can be a GREAT resource. Your vendor-partners typically have unique expertise in an area you need help with – managed markets, instructional design, curriculum development, technology, meeting logistics, and a whole host of other disciplines. But beyond this, the people you get to know on the vendor side have networks and contacts that can be of immense value. As you develop vendor partnerships, don’t forget to sit down over coffee or lunch periodically and just TALK. Your next job role, or a crucial new resource, or some vital bit of industry insight, may come from getting beyond current client/vendor titles and just enjoying some human networking. Further reading: Networking is Gold-Mining.

2. Your current role is only temporary. There is no job security – only network security. Therefore, you should not only network pro-actively with your peers inside your company (and in other life sciences companies), you need to remember that your vendor-partners most likely have a breadth of contacts across the industry. You not only open doors for them; they can open doors for you. When you realize that you should continually be transition-ready, vendors are not bothersome entities – they are valued friends. Further reading: Career-transition Ready is the New Black.

NetworkSecurity

3. Working with vendors with a win-lose, scarcity, competitive attitude is a losing game. You’re not there to “beat” your vendors, winning some game such that they lose. That’s incredibly short-sighted and counter-productive. Burning bridges by being a jackass is going to come back to bite you. Your most successful projects will involve working collaboratively with your partners so that everyone looks great at the end.

Want to learn more? Here’s a white paper, assembled with the input of people on both the client and vendor side, giving the top ten ways (from each perspective!) to work together: Client-Vendor Success White Paper

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Impactiviti provides vendor-client “matchmaking” services in the life sciences training area, built on a unique trusted referral network model. We consult and provide vendor advice at no charge for life science companies. Contact Steve Woodruff at asksteve@impactiviti.com

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