I enjoyed reading Tim Wilson's Affordable IT article "Let's Make a Deal" (Dec. 9, 2004). My company sells custom software, and though the article deals more with the buying side, I'd like to make a few comments in defense of the software seller.
"Most large companies," Wilson says, "have the advantage of a purchasing department that can help research alternatives, negotiate contracts and establish long-term relationships with vendors." But from the seller's standpoint, having to deal with an entire department can be bad, as internal office politics often prevent large organizations from making timely buying decisions. For example, no sooner will 50 people sign off on a given project than another 50 will come in and start the process from scratch, thereby putting everything on hold.
Wilson quotes one IT executive as saying, "The hardest part of negotiating a deal with an IT vendor is gaining assurance that the purchase will work as stated." But there are often mistakes and contradictions in the customer's requirements document. It's hard for a seller to verify something when the requirements were wrong in the first place.
I'd love to see an article on what both sides should do when requirements change after the contract has been signed. The problem I see is that the customer wants the project to change, but won't modify the time frame to let the seller comply.