Tag Archives: Specs

How Do You Add More Discipline to Quotes and Pricing? Four Points

Situation: A CEO faces challenges with clients. The first is vague customer specs because they don’t understand the product. Second is misunderstandings as to timelines. Third is insistence on strict timelines while simultaneously demanding revisions to previous work. How do you add more discipline to quotes and pricing?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Is the company’s technology strategy aligned with its capabilities? Currently the company is trying to build advanced solutions in multiple international markets with a small staff. There does not seem to be the technology or development discipline to convert current capabilities into a sustainable market advantage.
  • For near term focus, because of commitments and milestone payments due from the key customers, focus resources on finishing the last piece of these projects. Once this is done, step back. Look at options and determine the company’s technology strategy moving forward.
    • The key challenge is to define ONE beachhead on which the company will focus and which they can dominate. The objective is to leverage existing engineering creativity to create a sustainable competitive advantage.
    • As this exercise is designed, start with a clean slate. Don’t burden the process with a lot of restrictive assumptions. Consider using an outside facilitator to help facilitate this process.
    • Until this exercise is completed does it really make sense to seek additional work or to commit the company to the next phases with current customers?
  • Once the company has selected and committed to a technology strategy, the decision process becomes different.
    • The objective is to develop laser-like focus on the technology. Minimize distracting the team with other opportunities.
    • It may be OK to lose money on development projects if this work will significantly impact or accelerate the development of the company’s core technology.
  • How does the company justify asking for payment for development for future projects?
    • First, determine and clearly state the company’s technology strategy. Evaluate all future development projects and decisions in terms of their alignment with this strategy.
    • Second, if a particular project is completely aligned with the technology strategy, the company may waive the requirement of payment for development. This, ideally, will be the only exception.
    • Ask for a limited time/scope project to jump start and define new projects. This provides proof of company capabilities and establishes its credibility.
    • If is it necessary to negotiate or bid, start high and bargain down to but not below the best estimate of the cost of development.
    • Remember that deciding what NOT to do or quote is often harder, but just as critical, as deciding what to quote.

How Do You Respond to a Price Increase from a Supplier? Six Points

Situation: A small company has a parts supplier for product that they sell to their most important customer. That customer’s specs are “copy exact” on components for existing products; also, their new products are usually based on existing components. The supplier significantly raised prices on the parts supplied to the company. How you respond to a price increase from a supplier?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is an extremely sensitive situation. One solution is to not to rock the boat. The reality is that the company needs the parts, and it will take a lot of effort to replace them with parts from an alternate vendor. Just continue the relationship. Quit worrying about it and milk it for as long as it lasts.
  • Find out what caused the supplier to raise prices. The supplier needs to understand that to preserve the company’s margins they may have to raise prices to the final customer. This may threaten both the company’s and the supplier’s business with the customer.
  • Make sure that the supplier understands the company’s costs: office, salaries, equipment, maintenance, and local regulations that are unfriendly to business and difficult to deal with. Ask them to reconsider or reduce the price increase.
  • Assure that the supplier understands the value that the company provides and the importance of this collaboration to the business and profits and bottom lines of both companies. Leverage this value to get the price that the company needs.
  • Renegotiate the relationship to assure that supplier can’t go around go around the company and sell directly to the final customer.
  • Start building relationships with alternate suppliers.

Do You Continue a Difficult Partnership? Five Alternatives

Situation: A company has a key relationship with a major corporation. They recently completed work in Phase I of a multi-phase project which was fraught with difficulties. Now they are evaluating whether and how to proceed with Phase II. Do you continue a difficult partnership?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • What made Phase I difficult?
    • Initial work was done to original specs and on time. The partner then asked for additional work and a change to the original specs, but would not agree to pay for these changes. As a result, the company lost money on Phase I.
  • What alternatives exist?
    • In brief, you must fundamentally change the terms of engagement. You can convert everything to time and materials, so that when the partner makes changes or asks you to make changes, they pay as they go.
    • A second alternative is to reconstruct the project as a waterfall project with a fixed price up front. You agree to X iterations, at Y cost per iteration. Each iteration has a deadline and the work completed as of each deadline constitutes the final work on that iteration. You charge for additional iterations if the partner wants additional work after the final negotiated iteration.
    • A third alternative is to set a price that is 2x your estimated price, recognizing that there may be a need to change specifications during development. You will provide documentation of your time and effort. If at the agreed end of the project you have not used all of the funds budgeted, you refund the difference to the partner.
  • Adjust how you communicate with the partner as you renegotiate. Do not assume that silence constitutes agreement. Provide written documentation of your understanding at the close of each negotiation and invite them to correct any misunderstandings. Require that both sides sign this documentation to confirm agreement. Do not proceed until there is clear mutual understanding on all key points.
  • Purchase and use software to track any changes to requirements during the project. This will enable you to document both the changes requested and their waterfall effect on other portions of the project.