Managing Contracts provides guidance on how you could ensure that the accessibility of the delivered product or service is maintained, or even improved, during the course of the contract. In the context of procurement, follow-up of the supplier's performance of the contract is often known as (part of) contract management.
About contract management
This is how the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in UK defines contract management:
"Contract management is the process that enables both parties to a contract to meet their obligations in order to deliver the objectives required from the contract. It also involves building a good working relationship between customer and provider. It continues throughout the life of a contract and involves managing proactively to anticipate future needs as well as reacting to situations that arise. The central aim of contract management is to obtain the services as agreed in the contract and achieve value for money. This means optimising the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of the service or relationship described by the contract, balancing costs against risks and actively managing the customer–provider relationship. Contract management may also involve aiming for continuous improvement in performance over the life of the contract."
Having requested and received an accessible solution, you will then need to keep it accessible. There are many things that may change over time, including:
- the needs of the organisation and end users;
- the age, abilities and other characteristics of users;
- technological developments, initiating hardware and software changes; and
- the evolution of standards.
Changes of this kind may affect the accessibility.
It is important to consider accessibility within the whole lifecycle of the product or service, rather than just the buying phase.
You should ensure that the contract enables you to verify that the delivered product or service fulfills specified accessibility requirements during the course of the contract. This means that the requirements and the verification process should be specified in the contract. The specification should include
- requirements and criteria specified in the call-for-tender, met by the offered product/service according to the tender,
- where applicable, requirements agreed in negotiation,
- statutory requirements.
Contract management gives you possibilities to request the supplier to maintain and improve the quality, including accessibility features, in the procured product or service. Provisions for monitoring could be added to the contract. One example could be to use a special test method with users of an e-service. Another example could be to use the Customer Satisfaction Index. Improvements could be linked to sanctions or incentives for the supplier.
Contract management involves:
- monitoring of the delivery plan and accomplishment of the acceptance test,
- managing the supplier's performance against pre-determined quality criteria set out in the contract,
- managing changes and variations of the customers' needs, and
- the applying of the contracted procedures to tackle changes.
Accessibility issues during the lifetime of the contracted system are often related to interoperability between added or modified system components, accessibility features of the system and assistive devices delivered by third party suppliers.
Well-designed contract management makes the end-users feel confident that the performance of the contractis carried out professionally.
Inclusion of accessibility in SLA (Service Level Agreements)
Contract management for service contracts (service management) is often based on Service Level Agreements (SLA). Service management has two purposes: ensuring that the requirements in the contracted specifications are maintained, and creating the basis for improvements. Even if the concept of SLA primarily is aimed for technical performance levels, there are good opportunities for specifying levels for service accessibility. These levels should preferably be expressed as verifiable accessibility measures.
The definition of accessibility allows the accessibility to be measured by using usability measures. Examples of such measures are:
- Performance measures, which can measure the successfulness of performing a task.
This requires well-defined tasks with clear completion criteria. The period of time for accomplishing a task is another performance measure, as well as how many mistakes are made.
- Problem based measures, where the number of problems encountered when performing a task are registered. Examples of problems are not discovering something that should have been observed, to wrongly assume that a task is completed or wrongly assume that something is correct.
- Enquiries, where the end-user reports how he/she perceives the system.