Refocusing After a Failed Contract
What Happens When a Contract Goes Wrong?
Several years into the ECR Program, the Clerk's Office sought a vendor to develop an application to enable e-filing via Core ECR. This application needed to meet a broad array of stakeholder needs, as well as successfully interact with technology already in place. The Clerk's Office sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) detailing the ECR Program history, as well as its specific needs for this phase of the project.
The Clerk's Office entered into a contract with a vendor for this phase of the ECR Program in 2001. During user acceptance testing, the design proposed by the vendor proved to be unacceptable. As designed, the e-filing application was unable to handle large documents, making it defective for the Program's purposes.
In late 2002, the Clerk's Office interrupted the development process to reassess the situation with the vendor. Multiple meetings were convened, but it soon became clear that a successful solution would not be forthcoming. The contract was halted, and the Clerk's Office went through another round of RFPs in order to both complete the original work and correct what had gone wrong over the previous year.
The experience was frustrating for all involved. However, what might have been a worse situation was mitigated by thoughtful contracting processes, as well as careful project management. Specific loss mitigation contract clauses provided options for ending the contract with minimal losses when it became clear that the application’s architectural flaw was impossible to fix. And effective project management provided the organizational structure within which the Clerk's Office transitioned smoothly from one vendor to another for re-development of the e-filing application.