When it comes to the service that you receive from your technology partner, execution is a vital part of their capabilities. Execution permeates everything from support, to projects, to strategy and everything in between. It’s especially crucial when you’re executing a wide-reaching IT project. The human impact is so immense during a project like this that an execution misstep can damage reputations and have a long and lingering impact on people’s perception of IT.
So let’s avoid disaster, shall we? Before your next big IT project (or after one that has just gone sideways), here are five things to question and consider about your current technology partner. If one of these falls short of expectations, there is a high likelihood that it was a contributing factor.
“Plan your dive and dive your plan.”
This is a critical piece of advice you’ll hear in recreational scuba diving. It is meant to remind young divers to plan their dive depths properly so they can return safely. Otherwise, they could end up running out of air, getting decompression sickness or dying. Even though lives are typically not in the balance when it comes to IT projects, the requirement to plan is just as critical.
A good plan is not just a checklist – there must be a tactical execution plan involved as well. This should be developed as part of the planning process and should include things like:
- Fit – Does this project/technology make sense for our users? For example, Salesforce is a great piece of software but might not be the most effective depending on the sophistication of your users.
- Timing – Is it the right time to take this risk? (If you are a seasonal company this should be done off-season.)
- User Adoption – What is the plan to get users to adopt the tool? Are we teaching them? Are we showing them it’s an easier way to work?
- Success – What does success look like? Success criteria should be more than just whether or not the project got done.
This is a critical one and a lot easier to gauge then you might imagine. Go to your technology partner’s website or open up the last non-technical correspondence you had from them.
- What is the tone?
- What was the focus?
- How was the information presented?
- Does it look like they care about how it comes off?
Culture tells you a lot about your technology partner because it is driven from the top of the organization. It’s a standard that their team will conform to. Companies that really want a strong culture codify that culture with process and procedures.
During a large project, many things contribute to the success or failure. Having a technology partner with a helpful and human culture (and has taken the time to build out processes that support that culture) will certainly increase the chances of them working to make the project a success.
The focus of any good project team should be the results, not the tactics. Unfortunately, many brilliant technical teams focus on the act of doing rather than the outcome they are attempting to achieve. Why? Mainly because it is defensible.
But if the focus of your technology partner is to deliver a result then they are much more likely to find a way to reach that result. This is where the success criteria from the planning stage comes in handy. It provides the guiding light that allows the technology partner to pivot as necessary to achieve that success criteria.
Communication is non-negotiable, especially when it comes to a project that can have such a tremendous impact on your organization. It’s imperative to set up weekly or bi-weekly scheduled meetings with your technology partner to check in and assess how the project is moving along.
You should also be concerned about your technology partner’s internal communications. Hearing stuff like, “I didn’t know Kate was handling that!” or “I need to ask Jim if that got done…” should give you pause about whether or not your technology partner’s team is really communicating effectively with each other.
Ineffective internal communication can cause many downstream effects, including impaired communication with you and poor communication to your team. Ultimately this will impact the project delivery as well.
Obvious right? Of course you need a good team to execute consistently for you, but you need to look beyond their years of experience and certifications.
So what do you look at?
- Cultural Fit – What is their personality like? A good way to gain some insight here is to look at how they talk to you and your users. Is the discussion wrought with IT acronyms and jargon or is the language understandable and simple?
- Ego – Are they checking their egos at the door? If you challenge them on a point of execution what is the reaction? Are they offended and defensive or do they listen and look for a solution?
- Adaptability – This is also critical, but this is much harder for you to assess until the project has begun.
Ok, great! You now know what to look for to properly gauge your technology partner’s execution capabilities.
Now what? Well, chances are if they are failing some parts mentioned above, they are underdelivering in the relationship.
Still not sure?