Mediation in Information Technology

For those of us that have been in the Information Technology field for a while, resolving disputes is part of the job. I’ve been a project manager, project director, and a manager of telecom expense management (just to name a few positions) and in each of these positions I’ve encountered conflict and had the opportunity to resolve several disputes.

Part of a Project Manager’s job is to resolve issues on a daily basis. These can be as simple as working with a project team member and a functional manager to barter for time needed to complete a task. Or it could be as complex as working with a project steering committee to determine if the project timeline should/will be delayed. Mediation can be used in either of these two examples.

In the first, where a project team member, project manager and a function manager are discussing the need for hours to complete a task, a project manager could play the role of the neutral and work with each side to understand the differences between what the team member is estimating the amount of time needed to complete a task and the amount that the function manager is willing to provide. In this case this could be an informal mediation, casually completed.

In the second issue, Steering Committee is deciding if a project should be delayed, a formal mediation should probably occur between the Steering Committee and the Vendor completing the work (if a vendor is on contract). This mediation, although likely not planned during the project planning stage, could help both parties understand any underlying issues that are causing any schedule delays and could help each side to work better in the future.

As a Telecom Manager I had the opportunity of managing a telecom expense management group at more than one company. During this time I was privy to many of the disputes that telecommunication departments, telecom expense management companies, and carriers face. Sometimes the relationships between the company purchasing the services for voice or data and the company providing can be adversarial. This adversarial relationship can be due to unrealistic contract terms, unmet service delivery metrics, or many other reasons, which can lead to a myriad of disputes.

There are many potential uses for mediation in the telecom space. Mediations can occur between companies and their service providers to resolve disputes for missed service levels, contract disputes, credits to be received due to over billing, and the list goes on. Mediations for these situations can be a formal session enlisting a third party neutral for larger disputes or using in house resources for disputes that are smaller and less complex in nature.