The author is the president of Systems Management Resources Inc., an Atlanta-based information technology firm. He has served as arbitrator, mediator, and expert witness in many IT disputes, and is a member of the American Arbitration Association’s technology panel. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
According to Edward Praytor, mediation is one form of dispute resolution that is particularly suited to resolving information technology disputes, especially because of the emphasis that it places on preserving the relationships of the parties involved. The timely resolution of disputes is another compelling reason to use mediation, since a delay in IT projects typically results in “hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in economic loss.” How can you get the most out of mediation in IT disputes? Praytor suggests including an appropriate mediation clause in all software, hardware, and services vendors’ contracts. He also says that “when disputes arise, there should be an automatic evaluation and escalation process established” to minimize the time and money spent on the particular dispute. With the millennium fast approaching, Praytor recommends using this approach to help solve the many disputes expected to arise from the Y2K problem.
According to a 1998 study by The Standish Group, an information technology research organization that has tracked the results of thousands of computer systems projects since 1994, 74% of all such projects were either over-budget, late, delivered fewer benefits than originally planned, or were canceled. Each one of these troubled projects is potentially a litigation nightmare for many software, hardware, and technology services vendors, and for those who depend upon them or their products.