Program Management Tip 6 – Dot your I’s and cross your T’s – Understand the program commercials and contracts clearly

First of all, understand how and whence the funding for your program comes. Unlike a project, program funding normally is done on an ongoing basis (probably based on reaching of milestones) and you need to be aware of when you will have what funds in your hands. You also may need to be aware that sometimes your funding may come from different sources (organisations or departments). Once you are clear on this, you need to make sure that you have a handle on the money outflow or costs. Get a clear idea on this and then compare this with the benefits your program is delivering. This will help you articulate the RoI.

Picture source:

You need also to be aware of the fact that the funding may be made available in a foreign currency and that your budget planning may need to cater for foreign-exchange fluctuations.

Make sure that you are familiar with the key clauses in the various contracts (with customer, with vendors, with sub-contractors etc.) within the program ambit. If there are any clauses that make you uncomfortable make sure you bring it to your boss’s attention and see if you can re-negotiate the clauses.

Contracts between you and any of the stakeholders normally mention the scope of work, acceptance criteria, mutual responsibilities, escalation paths and guidelines on either side, penalty / incentive clauses.

You would of course, work to make sure that the contract is most beneficial to your organization. Where you are the provider (vendor) and where you are the customer (with respect to a provider) are situations where you would look at the same aspect differently.

Picture source:

Some of the key things you have to watch for (keeping in mind your role as a vendor or a customer) are:

  • Do the clauses mention what you need to deliver specifically? Any vagueness that is subject to interpretation should be avoided. For example does the scope clause with your customer say that you will deliver all “required” documentation? What does “required” mean?
  • If a clause says that you will provide performance reports as needed, does this mean that you have to develop a software system to deliver these reports?
  • Be watchful of open response times and performance requirements. Make sure that the environment for achieving these is clearly mentioned also.
  • Where you are working with multiple time zones, you need to clearly understand what time zone is being referred to when dates and times are referred to in the contract.
  • Be aware of data protection requirements and the legal ramifications of these. Many countries have laws that prohibit their data from being taken out of the country. Make sure you respect these (for example when using live data for testing). There may also be clauses needed to ensure that data is wiped off computers within a certain period of time.
  • Another thing to watch out for is Intellectual Property (IP) rights. You should make sure you do not violate any of these. This is important when you use open-source components in a system you are developing.

These are only a few of the things you need to watch out for. My advice would be that you have detailed discussions with your legal department before signing any contract.

Question: What challenges would you face if you do not understand the significance of the time zones?

7 Tips for Effective Program Management (A practitioner’s approach)

Tip 1 – All the world’s a stage – Understand your role

Tip 2 – Don’t fail to see the forest for the trees – Understand the big picture

Tip 3 – They hold all the stakes – Map them out

Tip 4 – Use support structures and technologies to your advantage

Tip 5 – Skating away on the thin ice of the new day – Keep your eye on the program risks

Tip 7 – Change management

What do you think?

What to read next