Digital Transformation Today

10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Technology Partner/Implementer

*Updated February 2019
You’ve made the decision to look for outside help to assist you with your Intranet Modernization project. While I hope you will consider Withum Digital, please review my top 10 things you should know before selectingANYtechnology partner.

1. We won’t know everything

It’s easy for clients to assume we will know everything about your culture, other important projects or understand the nuances of your IT infrastructure. The truth is we won’t. All is not lost as we have seen hundreds of environments so we will be swift in our analysis and findings. On a recent project, we were handed over 100 background documents and the expectation was that we would be well versed with the nearly 1 year of planning that pre-dated us. If I were scoping a project with a customer, the first question I would ask would be whether I should instruct my team to know all of the details of background documentation. Alternatively, I’d suggest to my client that they prepare a briefing for our team so we can focus on what’s most important. In most cases, we all agree on the latter.

2. We prefer to be prescriptive

Any client that has leveraged us as a strategic partner in the past should be able to tell you that we are going to provide you with a range of options. This is always a catch-22 for us because we have clients that will give us feedback such as “give me the mean and lean, most straight path” whereas another client may say “let’s take our time, do it right and change our internal processes”. The pace and scope of our efforts will vary drastically based on whether we are asked for prescriptive recommendations or to explore all viable options. This often overlooked point is one that you will be hearing us draw attention to early on.

3. The tech will change throughout the course of your project

In the age of acceleration, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that the technology evolves so quickly that at times our clients are more well-read than some of our own consultants. With a seemingly endless amount of planned features on product roadmaps and constant changes to the pricing of products & services, I suggest coming to terms with the fact that you will need to make some tough decisions during the early stages of your project. The idea that all solutions will be “future-proof” is a nice idea, but disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are likely going to one-up our most proud taxonomies and content structures. With that said, our responsibility as partners is to put forth the best solution we can with the information and resources that we have during that point in time. Speculating on whether a specific feature or application will endure is the equivalent of spotting the next surf-able wave that comes in to shore.

4. Our estimates will need to be refined

I totally get it. You have a finite amount of investment for this project and your procurement office requires that a cap be put on the total spend of this project. The inherent problem of course is that the more we get to know your environment and culture, the better information we have. I’ve seen this go both ways – as in – we could come in way below our initial estimates or as we really peel back the layers we at times need to come clean and explain why our good faith estimates are only a fraction of what the ultimate vision of the project will cost. My advice for any project that will have some variability in the breadth and depth of the implementation effort, is to provide us with the opportunity to refine our estimates by the end of the Planning or Design Phase. While this doesn’t perfectly address “the number” aka the total cost of the future phases of work, it ensures that we at least have an opportunity to change the direction or resource plan of the project. This should never be done in a vacuum, rather re-estimation should be a highly collaborative exercise among the project managers from both our organization and yours.

5. Fixed priced projects are not ideal for many organizations

As mentioned in #4 above, the implementation phase of a project will have some variance from what was originally estimated. A few of customers have strict procurement policies favoring Firm Fixed Price projects, reasoning the total cost of ownership must be known and appropriated for prior to the project’s inception. As a long-time project manager (and landlord for a brief period of time), I relate to this quite a bit. However, Fixed Priced Projects are ideal for projects where the work has been carefully scoped, requirements are detailed and there is a lot of predictability. When the project is still being envisioned, requirements are growing and stakeholders have yet to be engaged with, we tend to find “fit” issues with Fixed Priced Projects. Consider Fixed Priced engagements for projects with very specific deliverables that are easily quantified and not a lot of room open for interpretation.

6.We do not bill you for a lot of the value we deliver

When you hire an IT partner you are getting a piece of our collective experience across a dynamic group of experts. With that said what doesn’t show up on our invoices is a healthy amount of Research & Development that takes place behind the scenes outside of the project. Our sales team, account managers and senior leadership all provide guidance and quality assurance to our project teams, which is often not billed to our clients. We find that if our leadership is engaged and our consultants have minimal roadblocks, it’s a highly functional win-win for both our clients and our business.

7.Depth of experience matters most

What brought me to Withum 4 years ago and what keeps me here is the fact that everyone within Withum Digital, whether functional or technical, has very deep expertise related to automating business processes and improving productivity. I could boast for hours about our Microsoft Gold Partner status for I can’t even count how many years running, our 4 in-house Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVPs) or the fact that we’ve been in business for over 15 years since the beginning of Microsoft SharePoint time. Whoops I guess I just did brag a bit! My point is that when evaluating a vendor, put them on the hot seat to provide you with a plethora of war stories for every technical hurdle you anticipate.

8.Custom is expensive

As Microsoft moves more and more towards providing organizations with modern, easy to use components that end users enjoy, we’re seeing a strong shift in our business towards implementing less customized solutions. This is partly explained by keeping costs down, but also because the consensus across most organizations is to stay current with Microsoft updates and keep highly customized applications to maintain to a minimum. Feel free to contact us so we can show you how we’re filling in the gaps with our OneWindow suite of components every step of the way.

9.Technical solutions follow Process transformation

One of the biggest reasons why I’m a strong proponent of conducting a Discovery prior to the start of any sizable IT project is to ensure that we have clear business objectives before we begin breaking ground. Within our findings and recommendations, we will expose any process gaps or requisite leaps that are needed for a new technology solution to succeed. A good example of this is when we get hired for a business process improvement project where we are tasked with automating a pen-and-paper process to online digital form. In most cases what we see is large changes to the current process and at times complete overhauls are required to get to the “dream state.” Investing time upfront to work out the kinks of a process will pay huge dividends downstream.

10.You get what you pay for

There is no point in hiding it, we work for currency. Although more and more it looks like we’re exchanging our digital solutions for digital currency. Phew! It feels so good to get that out in the open. However student loans payments aside, we at Withum Digital are all technologists at heart and we love what we do. Any good vendor will strive to understand your circumstances and the economics at play. If there is a path to reduce the cost by sharing the workload with you, we’ll present that option. But my last tip is to not shy away from sharing with us the budget constraints that you have upfront. My inner project manager resists the urge to bring this up as projects should be scoped based on effort and not cost, but it is just reality that we all have budgets. If you can provide us a window into what you can afford, my guarantee to you will be a right-sized project and schedule that we all can shake hands on.

Need guidance on your intranet modernization project? Contact usfor a complimentary consultation with one of our digital transformation experts.

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