Do check your potential partner out. It’s real-world results that are important, not sales speak. Ask for evidence. A proven technology provider can back up their claims with facts and documented success stories from reputable clients.
Don’t take their word for it. Ask their customers what they think. Choose from the list on your potential partner’s website and ask for the contact details of someone they’ve worked with directly. If this is not forthcoming, ask them why.
Ask the customers questions about how well the potential partner interacts with managers and stakeholders, and how effectively they get the job done. They may not have delivered precisely the same project as yours before, but successfully delivering a variety of projects and giving excellent customer satisfaction is a great indicator of a partner who’ll work alongside you and provide exactly what you need.
You should also ask the customer how the partner worked with them when things went off-track. Projects are almost never straight forward, and challenges invariably pop up when unforeseen changes need to be made. Understanding how the partner managed these types of complexities — not only technically but interpersonally, is a good indication of what you can expect from them.
Don’t take risks. Check how long the potential partner has been in business. And look at how long they’ve kept their customers — and their staff. A high churn of clients or staff is never a good sign. Longevity is the result of loyalty, commitment, and ethical and fair behaviour.
Do make sure they have business smarts. Good technology partners have years of experience in helping clients achieve their business goals. They understand that their job is making their clients more successful.
The initial discussions with your potential partner about your challenges should focus on outcomes, people, productivity and process improvement, not IT. Your partner should have, at the very least, a broad awareness of your industry segment, your target market and how their tools can help your business grow. And they will help you define how to measure the success of what they propose.
Only then should they design a solution that leverages the most appropriate technology to get you there, and show you precisely how their solution will do it.
Don’t be swayed by flashy tech. You’re looking to improve your business, not adopt technology for technology’s sake. Innovation is critical to growth, but everything must have a purpose, and deliver a clear and definable ROI.
A business oriented partner will ensure that you get the technology solution that works for your business strategy, and will implement it in way that supports not only your immediate goals, but supports your future goals as well — even when they change!
3. Support and beyond
Do check the support model. A good partner will offer a range of support options (such as 0800 calling, email, web-chat, self-service) and they’ll have a dedicated support team. Check how well their availability dovetails with your business hours.
Great support extends well past responding to the ‘help, it’s broken’ call. Your partner should provide advice on how you can maximise your investment. They should offer you custom training, webinars, and events. Ideally, this is all provided through one, identifiable and contactable Account Manager.
Don’t forget the ‘beyond’! As we’ve said, support isn’t just about break-fixes. It’s about ensuring you optimise value from your solution well into the future. Ask them about their Continuous Improvement Programmes, and consider what other services and solutions they offer. Do they have the scope to support other areas of your business in the future? A great technology partner should have the breadth of knowledge and experience to understand and support your business from end-to-end.
Don’t settle for less than you deserve. A promise is a promise. And this is the future of your business we’re talking about. Make sure you get a clear picture of what happens after you go live. And the year after that. Be clear on whether you have the backing of the whole company, from your Account Manager all the way to the owner of the company.
Do look at your potential partner’s business culture. Does it align with yours? Culture determines fit and includes communication style, level of formality, expectations for documentation, and more.
You need to be certain that their people will work well with yours.
Don’t undervalue the impact of having conflicting cultures. If you and your partner don’t operate under the same assumptions, there’s going to be a lot of miscommunication. This usually leads to spiralling costs, frustration and disappointment.
Do think about tomorrow. A great technology partner offers more than one solution and more than one platform. This gives you choices as technology and business change. The ideal partner is solution-focused rather than product-based in their approach, so they can offer alternatives to fit your needs.
An exceptional partner understands that the systems they develop for you need to keep pace with your business as it evolves. Be clear on how they propose to engage with you once the project is complete.
Don’t partner with a one-trick pony. You’re going to invest time, effort and money so you deserve options. Make sure your partner isn’t just trying to sell you a specific product here and now, but is keen to solve your problems in the long-term.
Behind every successful business is a great technology partner. Choose well.