My biggest personal experience working in a multivendor environment was some years ago with Directpl as a project manager for a large client. Our client had just acquired another company in a $12.5bn deal. My piece of this giant pie was concerned with the evaluation, acquisition and absorption or replacement of seven applications together with business processes and employees.
Multivendor environments are currently common practice at large companies. Enterprise IT solutions are very complex and in order to deliver full functionality many companies elect to mix third party vendors. Typically, we are talking about projects which are so large they easily can be split into areas of expertise. Putting different IT companies in charge of their own domains like: Development, QA, Coordination (PO, Scrum Master, Project Management) adds a competitive aspect to the whole setup as well as checks and balances to limit unexpected issues/risks as well as keep costs low. As we came to learn, another key aspect for success is full transparency on each vendor’s separate SLA with the client, in order for all teams to know what to expect from each other.
In this particular case, I was the client’s main contact person for Directpl, in charge of our project team that performed all of the following project scope:
Project Management: managing application lifecycle (design, build, development, testing, and maintenance), during the transition, interfacing with stakeholders and developers.
Test management: Creating a test plan, test cases, around user-stories, managing test team during SIT (System Integration Testing), inputting and controlling defects, making sure that developers address them in a timely fashion and priority order.
Testing: perform test cases and exploratory testing, to assure a proper functioning solution, reporting defects into the management solution, tracking these defects and retesting them once they are reported as repaired.
This project began under a lot of time pressure. As a part of the acquisition agreement the clock was going to run out at an immoveable fixed time by which all seven applications would have to be completely migrated. Ownership and responsibilities were split among multiple vendors who, unfortunately, had different types of contracts and SLAs. It took a little time before the different vendors worked out that not everyone was operating under an identical SLA, so for example Vendor X actually did have the right to spend Y hours on that simple task. Another aspect that was making things harder and more complicated was that vendors were working in different time-zones.
The tight deadline and generous SLA conditions enjoyed by the largest vendor in this project resulted in the need for our team to have periods of relative calm followed by intensive work periods. We needed to push through our tests in record time in order to not lose any precious days and keep the project on track. All our team members understood the need to work the way we did, but still the overtime and inability to schedule time off made this no one’s favorite project experience. The amount of coffee we drank could be measured in gallons.
The applications were fully migrated on-schedule and on-budget. Directpl was able to quickly build the necessary senior team of experts able to meet the deadline imposed by client. Using good relations, many conference calls and participative team problem solving, the challenges encountered in the engagement with third party vendors, including the largest vendor and their critical team of developers, were overcome.
Around 300 people from three different major vendors were involved in the delivery of this complex project. It was a huge success for the client and one of my personal biggest achievements!