Selecting the right implementation partner is the first step to avoid disaster. Examples of colossal technology project failures abound. Even big brand consultants with proven success can fail to meet client expectations. Therefore, finding the best vendor for your project is more than picking the most recognizable name. An implementation vendor should modernize your technology, enable revenue growth, and improve operational efficiencies. These goals depend on the right mix of people, process, and technology (PPT) all guided by technical project management.
After a rigorous review of solutions, you have picked the perfect application. Now, it is time to figure out which preferred partner is the right fit for your implementation effort. Enterprise solutions providers offer preferred implementation partners. But it is difficult to identify the right silver/gold/platinum partner from pages of names and logos. Moreover, a preferred partner does not guarantee a successful implementation. Because technical expertise is essential, preferred status denotes a threshold of technical competence. Yet, there are a few non-technical factors often overlooked during the selection process. But it is these factors that might very well be responsible for the success or failure of your project. The following tips are five non-technical aspects key to the implementation vendor selection process.
1. Look for attentive and empathic listening
The implementation vendor should demonstrate an understanding of your requirements before proposing solutions. During the sales process, make sure to work with a technology project team in addition to the sales team. Articulate your requirements directly to the project team. Then, confirm the requirements with the project team in writing. The vendor might have used the solution elsewhere in similar environments. Do not assume the same design solution will work for you. Organizational needs are not identical. Thus, the right partner considers your unique challenges and processes in designing a solution.
A generic statement of work that does not reflect your specific requirements might be a sign that the vendor is the wrong fit. Lack of clear and mutually understood requirements may yield missed expectations later. As useful features are constructed, an engaged and attentive implementation partner is likely to celebrate your success alongside you, because they get the value of the solution to you.
2. Talk to client references
Past performance is a predictor of future behavior. It is a good idea to speak to a few of the vendor’s past clients. Although you will only talk to the best clients, the information they share may surprise you. Ask client references if the implementation budget, timeline, and scope were on target. How was the working relationship before, during, and after the project? Were there personnel changes during the project? Did the vendor provide technical project management with integrity? Finally, ask about their vendor selection and implementation process. That way you can find out what to do differently.
These conversations should tell you about the vendor’s commitment to clients goals. Focus your questions and discussions on soft skills and personnel compatibility. Past client experiences provide valuable input to your implementation. Lessons learned or retrospectives are invaluable for finalizing your vendor decision.
3. Accountable contracts
Defining acceptance and warranty terms upfront will save you grief. In a time and materials (T&M) engagement, billing is concurrent with the work completed. So you may receive an invoice before a working solution is complete. Thus, it is crucial to consider tying the result of user acceptance testing to payments as new features become available. An alternative is to define the contract with a fixed fee structure, but we find this traditional contract to limit innovation and flexibility during longer engagements.
Honesty and transparency at the start will help set the tone for the rest of your project. Set ground rules on acceptance criteria at the beginning of your development effort. This is especially important if your project requirements are not well-defined. Sometimes there is a significant component of discovery or research in early phases. For these cases, build in checkpoints and design sign-offs along the way. As the motto goes “trust, but verify.”
4. Look for signs of cash flow problems
You want to reduce the risk of implementation partners billing for unnecessary work. For this reason, only work with vendors who are in sound financial standing. It is not uncommon for vendors to ask for favorable payment terms. But watch out for large upfront payments on T&M engagements.
Broken relationships and vendor disputes inevitably lead to the blame game, confusion on who said what when, or repeated promises of future deliveries. Due diligence upfront helps to ensure that you are working with a team that is on customer value, and not just collecting billable hours.
5. Seek out technical project management
An implementation vendor that is the right fit for you could be a prestigious Big 5 consulting firm or a boutique firm like iTrellis. Either way, the vendor must have a sound project management methodology in place. Technical expertise alone will not yield a successful outcome. The guidance of sound project management is equally important.
Do not overlook the value of an experienced Technical Project Manager (TPM). TPMs coordinate all aspects of the project and facilitate communication. Not only that, TPMs are proactive in addressing concerns before they become problems. Every successful project has dedicated technical project management. Pay attention to your assigned project management resource during the vendor selection process.
IT projects don’t have to be painful or difficult. Having the right partner cannot guarantee your success. But with these tips you can find an implementation partner who aligns with your goals. Researching vendors and setting the right expectations early will benefit your project. The right implementation vendor is interested in mutual success. At iTrellis, we multiply success for our clients by delivering on our commitments. We count our wins based on service and value to our clients, not the expense to them. Our technical team is facile in many technologies. But its our emphasis on quality and communication that makes us a great candidate for your software project.
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We are a group of passionate technologists who enjoy building as much as delivering. At iTrellis, that means DevSecOps and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). These tools help keep our team on track. We enable client growth through cost-effective technology. Our team specializes in digital transformation through systems integration and custom software development.
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