What Keeps You Up at Night?

Interviewing bidders’ key staff is an excellent way to determine their qualifications to run your projectWe had executed our orals process flawlessly. One by one, the three short-listed bidders presented their solutions to our review team and submitted their eight key staff to in-depth interviews. The days were grueling but well worth it, if at the end of the process our client would be able to select the winning bid without second guessing its decision.

My partner and I, as representatives of our client’s Project Management Office, were charged with interviewing each bidder’s proposed Project Manager. We were wrapping up the interview with the third and final vendor’s PM.

We went through our set questions (which had been answered in stellar fashion by the first two bidders’ proposed PMs). The third vendor’s PM was clearly struggling in answering some of our questions. It appeared to me that he hadn’t really grasped the importance of why we had required the vendors to describe in detail their project management approach in their written proposals.

As my partner asked additional questions, I quickly reviewed his resume to refresh my memory regarding his qualifications: Project Manager for multi-million dollar engagements, long-term employee of a reputable firm, good references. I looked closer at the types of projects he had successfully managed, and quickly understood his struggle. He was a hardware guy. His project references were from the infrastructure side of major projects. He apparently had little experience in software development.

This became even more clear with the next question we asked: “What keeps you up at night?”

His answer came quickly. He did not reference the common issues that plagued the type of project for which we had solicited bids: issues such as legislative changes, complex functional requirements, the myriad of interfaces with other organizations, governmental certification requirements, quality of client staff loaned to the project, and the like.

No, what kept him up at night was “whether the equipment I need for my developers would be delivered on time”. Equipment, by the way, which would not be required for 15 months according to his firm’s own proposed project schedule.

Our recommendation not to select this vendor did not keep us up at night.


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