5 Must-Haves in a Technology Partner
Embracing technology is essential for leaders who want to grow their businesses and maximize return on investment. That’s because technology enables you to scale your business, increase productivity, and sustain a competitive advantage. But to reap optimum rewards you need to stay abreast of current technology trends, assimilating the latest innovations judiciously along the way—a demanding task when you’re managing a business, trying to cope with customer needs, industry trends, ongoing operations and more.
The answer is to discover a technology partner that’s able to help you design the ideal combination of technology, software platforms and services, and execute a solution tailored to your needs. Because of their daily exposure to a broad spectrum of clients, projects and industries, they enable you to leverage fresh ideas for increased efficiency. And one that will take a methodical approach that dramatically decreases your cost and time to implement your project.
“Dig your well before you’re thirsty” – Chinese Proverb
Finding the right technology partner, however, takes time. And it takes even longer to build a long-term, synergistic relationship where your partner is fully immersed in the intricacies of your business, your systems and your people. So start looking for a partner now and when you find them, put your new relationship on a test drive with a small pilot project.
The 5 Essential Questions to Ask Potential Technology Partners
You’ll discover many technology companies eager to partner with you, but ask these questions before you tie the knot.
1. Do they have competent people?
Look for people who are not only passionate about technology, but also what it can do for your business. Your partner should have long-term, experienced employees who can tackle complex projects, protect you from problems they’ve encountered before, and bring unique insight and value to your project. They contribute innovative ideas, demonstrate thought leadership, and show you how leading-edge technology offers powerful opportunities. Then they create a technology road map that illustrates the steps required to reach your destination.
2. Do they have effective processes and systems in place?
Smart business solutions are the result of implementing knowledge and skills in a systematic way. Therefore, to gain confidence that a partner can deliver an innovative business solution without running into speed bumps along the way, it’s critical to learn what processes and systems they have in place.
For example, instead of communicating with never-ending e-mail strings, your partner should have a seamless collaboration system that centralizes communication, assures nothing falls through the cracks, and deadlines are met. They also use an intelligent project-management system to bring issues to the surface sooner; and have a well-defined development, change-order and deployment process.
3. Are they using best practices for development?
Using hybrid and agile development processes helps nail down cost-effective, timely solutions that deliver results.
A technology partner using a well integrated hybrid development process has local presence and global reach, enabling them to tap into talent and skill-sets from across the globe. The process empowers team members working across multiple time-zones, providing an around-the-clock development cycle for faster results. To be successful, communication is essential. It should include regular meetings on project status where team members synchronize their efforts and overcome obstacles together. Meanwhile the US-based team communicates with the client to assure their requirements are reflected accurately, and they are filled in on the project status every step along the way.
An agile development process ensures active team-member and stakeholder involvement, timely updates, risk management, and cost control. All are crucial for large, complex projects with detailed specifications. By reviewing and reporting on the development process on a timely basis, agile development increases flexibility and the ability to adapt to change. The on-going active involvement of the entire team and the client reduces the time spent in meetings because of fast-paced decision making. This keeps the team motivated and boosts their performance.
4. Do They Offer End-to-End Solutions?
Your technology partner must be capable of taking your project from inception to deployment, and maintaining speed and agility throughout its life-cycle. This is a multifaceted, iterative endeavor that encompasses project scoping; defining requirements; building application architecture; designing and developing the application; quality assurance; maintaining and hosting the application; and ongoing support.
5. Do they have a broad technology background?
Because of the explosion in information technology innovation and knowledge, your technology partner needs to have wide and deep experience. Like most companies you probably need multiple technologies to run your business, for example, cloud services, Mobile Applications, and Web-based Solutions. Therefore, your partner needs the broad, experience and knowledge required to create a robust solution that intertwines these technologies for optimal results.
For the most successful outcomes you also need to use best-of-breed technologies. For example, you may want to use Salesforce.com for customer relationship management, Microsoft SharePoint for collaboration, and an iPhone for your sales force. Thus, your technology partner must be able to work on all these platforms, recommend optimal technology combinations and integrate them. These capabilities also enable them to enhance outcomes by implementing distinct technologies on each project tier and designing the ultimate user experience.
By relying on one partner to complete your whole project, you save time and don’t have to worry about coordinating activities of multiple vendors.
The core message is that your partner should be a business solution architect, looking at the big picture, the challenges and opportunities unique to your business, and applying their know-how to create solutions tailored to your needs.