6.4.5 Communication

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Establishing a good communication is a structural element in the relationship between the Contracting Authority and the Contractor. The international practice in contract execution has proven that problems of lack of trust or concern related with the performance of the Contractor are frequently due to the ineffective communication of those managing the contract from both sides as well as the failure to communicate and explain to the Contractor the goals and intentions of the Contracting Authority with reference to the specific Project.

The practice of communication must begin immediately after the end of the tender procedure and signature of the contract, with the kick-off meeting (see paragraph 6.2), at which time is set the foundation for the application of a continuous information exchange policy between Contracting Authority and Contractor. The effort to achieve optimum communication between Contracting Authority and Contractor must be continued during the planning of the method for executing the contract (Project implementation), at which time answers must be given to the questions of the checklist below and draft the "Communication Plan"; (see Chapter 7, subchapter 7.4.8 "Communication Management.")

 

Checklist 6-1: Critical questions to achieve optimum communication

between Contracting Authority and Contractor

Has the frequency of official communication with the Contractor been defined?
Who will participate in the review meetings?
Who is authorised to have written communication with the Contractor?
Who represents the Contractor in the Steering Committee?
Will there be possibility for electronic communication and submission of deliverables using electronic means (e.g., emails)?
Do the suitable means and infrastructures to conduct communications exist? Are these available to all those involved in the communication actions?
Has a procedure for keeping the minutes of meetings been foreseen?

The communication management procedures included in the "Communication Plan" must be applied throughout the duration of the contract period, while each time the need arises for a modification, the initial Plan must be reviewed.

In order to avoid problems with the communication of Contracting Authority and Contractor, it is suggested that the following rules are applied:

Whenever there is a deadline for the receipt of a written communication, the sender shall take all of the necessary measures in order to ensure the prompt receipt of the communication
Any notice, consent, approval, certificate or decision by any person required by the contract shall be made in writing, unless otherwise defined in the contract
Any verbal instructions or orders shall be put into effect at the time of their communication and then confirmed in writing

 

Communication levels

An aspect of communication management that needs special attention is the flow of information between the organisation levels of the Contracting Authority and the Contractor. If we assume that in accordance with the best practices the Contracting Authority as well as the Contractor have organised themselves for the execution and management of the contract into 3 or 4 (in the case of large in scale or complexity projects) levels, the flow of information must take place "horizontally" between similar organisational levels of the Contracting Authority and the Contractor, as well as "vertically" between the different organisational levels of each of the contracting parties.

 

Example 61: Communication levels (horizontal & vertical) between Contracting Authority and Contractor in the context of a contract for the supply of information technology services

The figure below presents the example of a Contracting Authority which has concluded a contract with an economic operator (e.g. a Societe Anonyme) for the supply of information technology services (e.g., operation of the information system). At the strategic level, the Administration of the Contracting Authority and the Board of Directors of the Contractor must communicate on issues involving the cooperation between them, any changes in strategic goals affecting the contract scope, as well as exchange views for taking initiatives that will serve the new strategic goals. At the management level, the Project Manager communicates with the Project Manager on the Contractor side on issues involving the contract administration (e.g., changes, payments, claims etc), practical issues of the execution of the contract scope and monitoring the performance of the Contractor and the progress of his works. Finally, at the operational level, the end users of the information system applications communicate and ask from the technical staff of the Contractor to provide support with any technical difficulties they encounter during the daily performance of their work.

As it is shown in the above figure, it is very important to apply so much “horizontal”, as much as “vertical” communication. For example, if one of the End Users of the Contracting Authority thinks that the level of the service provided is below the required one, then he/she should not communicate directly with the Management of the Contractor, but he/she should report the issue to the Project Manager (“vertical communication”). Following that, the Project Manager of the Contracting Authority should care for resolving the problem by communicating with his/her counter part from the management of the Contractor (“horizontal communication”).

Any diagonal communication must be avoided. This means that in the aforementioned example, any direct communication of the end user (Contracting Authority) and the Contractor's Management should be avoided, as this undermines the authority of the Project Manager on the part of the Contracting Authority. With the same logic, it not allowed for example that the technical staff of the Contractor complains regarding its work load to the Project Manager on the part of the Contracting Authority.

 

In order to deem the communication between Contracting Authority and Contractor as a successful one, there must be homogeneity and consistency in the communication of all the organisational levels. If, for example, the communication at the strategic level is good but there are serious disagreements at the management level, nobody can ensure that the overall relationship between Contracting Authority and Contractor will not collapse.


© 2007 Republic of Cyprus, Treasury of the Republic, Public Procurement Directorate
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