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I've done a report analyzing how a vendor had done a piss-poor job in our project. The report is basically an explanation why the vendor's technical choices are terrible, and supported by various objective analysis, stats of our performance data and fair comparison with our competitors.

I shared this report with my managers, who are convinced by my arguments (they are not technical).

The problem is that I am now asked to present my findings to that vendor in a web meeting, and I honestly believe their quality of work is terrible beyond imagination. Those two are conflicting. If I present in my honest way I would absolutely destroy the relationship between us, which has not been bad, and which we would need at least for a few more months. I would also get a bad reputation within my team as the person who condemns our vendor and create friction for future work.

Needlessly to say I wish we could seek out another vendor, from day one. Quite a few within the company share my opinion that the vendor's quality of work is not up to standard, but for one reason or another we end up continuing with them.

Usually I let my managers deal with the nice talking stuff. Apparently it was decided that this information needs to be shared with the existing vendor and I will be the one to do it. So I need to talk nicely, somehow.

How?

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    if you discussed this statistics for performance with managers, the same thought regarding this must have crossed your mind, why not discuss this with your manager now and ask them how they want you to approach. – nightfury101 Jan 29 at 4:55
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If your company is hoping to keep up relations with that vendor, I do agree that this is a trainwreck waiting to happen.

However, this is not your decision. It is your manager's. Maybe they misunderstood how deep the issue goes. Maybe they're not understanding that the vendor won't just take the feedback and improve on it.

Talk to your manager. Something along the lines of:

Regarding the issues we've had with this vendor, they run very deep. These aren't minor flaws that can easily be corrected, they show a deep rooted bad practice to creating/delivering their product. It may be more efficient to find a new vendor rather than wait for them to turn everything around, though I'm aware that decision is not up to me.

What is the expected outcome of this meeting? Are we trying to continue working with this vendor and try to address as many issues as we can without souring the relationship? Or are you expecting me to give brutally honest feedback, but not guaranteeing that they still want to work with us in the future? I currently don't see a way to both be open and honest, while also guaranteeing a good future relationship with this vendor.

You need your manager to decide here, because there may be plans that you are not aware of.

For example, maybe your manager is hoping for a brutally honest review so they can then use that as leverage for breaking a contract or not paying the full amount (as the product delivered by the vendor did not meet the requirements of the deal).

Or, alternatively, your manager is naively assuming that the vendor will always try to please their customer and thus drop everything to fix the things you list as wrong.

Or, as a third option, your manager is unsure whether to continue with this vendor and wants to see their response to your feedback; are they apologetic or dismissive, are they open to fixing things?

You can't know this. So ask your manager. The manager decides the priorities: honesty or keeping up a good relationship?

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    +1 also get this in writing. Send him an email after you talk starting like Hello, these are the points we discussed... – rath Jan 29 at 11:44
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You should take your concerns to your Manager. Ask him for directions. I see two possibilities.

A: He want´s it to escalate, to get some leverage. You just present your findings neutrally and factually, as technician. He will have to deal with the fallout.

B: He shares your concerns. You need to soften your presentation. Try to be positive about it and present it as "areas for future improvement"

If you feel unable to fulfill the requested in line with the stated goals, ask for help!

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From my work experience, before work engagement with vendors there usually is a contract signed by management or authorized representatives of management of both the client and the vendor. In this contract, there is usually a section pertaining to performance measurement or some type of service level agreement.

Agreements with 3rd party vendors to complete work should be documented in contracts for exactly this reason - so unsatisfactory work is not a surprise to either party. From the information you presented, it does not seem the vendor was aware of their poor performance prior to you completing your analysis, which is unfortunate and a failure of your company management.

As to how I would present the information to the vendor, I would just explain dispassionately what the shortcomings were and leave emotion and any traces of blaming out of it.. If the vendor is very sensitive, this relationship may not be salvageable. Your company management first interest is protecting their own company, so if that means communicating harsh, but ultimately true, information to the vendor, then sometimes so be it. In hindsight, engaging this vendor was almost certainly a poor decision.

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This is a terrible situation, it's not your role to do this, it's clearly management or project managers role. But since you must.

Write it professionally as an analysis without going into too much detail and then send it to your manager to forward to the vendor clearly covering yourself by starting. 'As requested here is the analysis of vendor XYX work during the period covering YXY project.'

And then leave it to them to send, if they insist you send it, forward that. In future don't do this sort of thing. No one asked you to do an analysis in the first place, making personal enemies in the industry is not a good idea for a professional career. It can seriously give you grief in the future.

  • A couple of clarifications. Yes I was asked to do an analysis; I probably went a bit too far to point out everything, but the intention was my managers should know. By "present" it means a web meeting. – mandy Jan 29 at 4:31

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