Do you ever walk into one of those big box club stores with the best intentions and then end up walking out with 36 cans of tuna or 18 pairs of tube socks?
It happens to all of us, we’re caught up in the moment…shopping, finding deals and cool stuff. Before we know it we’re convincing ourselves “this [insert thing you don’t need] is unbelievable! I must have it!”
Working with an IT partner can produce similar results, which is why it is so critical to pick the partner that’s right for you. In corporate terms, we’ll call it “right-sizing your technology project.” There are so many ways you can end up over your head when it comes to your next big technology initiative. Keeping your true needs in perspective can be a challenge, but it is vitally important to your success.
At eimagine we talk a lot about our tagline: Think, Connect, Deliver. This really means we’re focused on listening to our clients so we can make the right recommendations to fit their budget, needs and environment. We believe strongly in our role as a technology consultancy. This position has at times produced a funny result for us. We end up referring business away to other partners, even competitors, because it’s in the best interest of our client.
Below are some valuable tips we’ve learned from our clients over time. These help ensure you are keeping your best interests front-and-center when navigating your next technology project.
- Define Expectations: Make sure you understand what happens when a project isn’t delivering on expectations. Many times a partner will write an agreement in a way that charges you for every change order or modification. Look for hidden language in your agreement, so you don’t end up with sticker shock at the end of a project.
- Scope the Project: It is critical to clearly communicate your expected results, required functionality, must-haves and nice-to-haves at the beginning of the project. The more you invest up-front, the less likely you are to experience scope and budget creep, or more importantly, project failure.
- Development Methodology: Understand the process your partner will use to meet the project requirements. Will they disappear for six months and then reappear with a solution that isn’t quite right? Or will they employ an Agile methodology so you have consistent visibility to the evolution of the project.
- Establish Strong Communication: Figure out quickly who will act as the point person on your team and who will be the go-to Project Manager from your partner. Identifying those roles and defining expectations for communication will help alleviate misunderstandings. Even better, if you don’t feel comfortable with the Project Manager, ask for a new one or don’t move forward. Any discomfort can be an early red flag.
- Data Ownership: If there’s coding, hosting, data storage, etc. involved, make sure you understand who owns the data and where it lives. No one ever likes to consider what happens when a relationship ends, but severing ties with a partner only to find out you don’t own your stuff can be crippling and costly to your business.
- Partner Bias: Observe how your partner talks about other solutions. Do they speak negatively about the competition? If so, this might indicate they are pushing a specific platform or product. Be careful not to let a partner sell you on their solution or introduce you to their bias, especially if they are charging you for an “independent assessment” or “technology review.” A healthy dose of skepticism can take you a long way.
Bonus Tip – Play Devil’s Advocate: Right before you make any decisions ask yourself: “Is this solution right for our organization or are we buying more features than we need?” or “does this sound too good to be true?” and finally, “is there anything about the actions of this partner which is making me blind to an obvious shortcoming?”
If you keep these tips in the back of your mind, you can avoid picking the flashy partner who fails to produce, the expensive partner or solution that won’t meet your needs, or the unbelievably feature-rich, inexpensive solution that is too good to be true. Avoid those pitfalls and you are well on your way to being the hero, not the goat, of your next big project.