Blog #7 for GTOs - compliance and reporting
'Do's' and 'dont's'.
Your checklist #needtoknow.
All great business relationships are built on a series of successful outcomes.
Obviously, you select a technology partner based on what they can do for you. But how they do it - and the value they add – is what makes the difference. This is no more evident than in the education and training sector. Selecting a “Me Too” provider that can provide a solution the same as everybody else isn’t going to add much value.
So, here’s our list of do’s and don’ts for choosing your technology partner.
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 shouldn’t be focused on technology or a specific application. They need to understand your business, your people, and the challenges of being in the education and training sector. There are plenty of companies that can provide viable “technical” solutions, but that’s just the beginning, they also need to be able to do that in the context of the complex and competitive education market.
They should be expert at both the core outcomes required for the business, as well as focusing on what additional value they can bring to your specific business model. You need to consider if they’ve done business with an education provider in your geographical context (rural vs. urban), your particular specialty (trade vs. professional) and your funding model (full fee-paying vs. funded).
As an education provider, you’re focused on the student lifecycle; from the moment a prospective student contacts you, to the point where they attain their qualification. It’s critically important that your technology provider understands this as well. The student journey can be complicated and subject to being impacted by many things – some within your control, and others which are just outside of your control. Having a system that’s capable of supporting all the scenarios that are likely to occur will only come from a provider that understands the complexities of education providers.
The market is full of providers that talk the talk, complete with the latest buzz words. But unless it makes a tangible difference to your business, it’s useless. You’re looking to improve your business, not adopt technology for technology’s sake. While innovation is critical to growth, 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 they will implement it in a way that supports not only your immediate goals but supports your future goals as well – even when they change!
Real-world results are what count, not sales speak. Ask for evidence. Ask to talk to clients (on your own), but also be sure to engage with the partner’s consultants. These are the people that do the work; they are going to be the ones that will work alongside you and need to understand what you’re trying to achieve.
Talk to their customers, but don’t just focus on customers that are “like you.” Make sure that you get a good sense of their breadth of expertise. A provider that understands ONLY education and training can be a significant risk. You run a business that has finance, HR, reporting, and technology. It’s important that a partner understands technology’s role in all your business processes.
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 isn’t 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 precisely what you need.
You should also ask the customer how the partner worked with them when things went off-track. Projects are almost never straightforward, 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.
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 employees is never an encouraging sign. Longevity is the result of loyalty, commitment, and ethical and fair behaviour.
A good partner will offer a range of support options (such as phone, email, web-chat, self-service) and they’ll have a dedicated support team, focused on your industry. Check how well their availability dovetails with your business hours and how your people work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 organisation as it evolves – and as the Government changes its compliance requirements. Be clear on how they propose to engage with you once the project is complete.
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 education provider is a great technology partner. Choose well.