They say the toughest part of a recovery journey is admitting you need help. But it can be equally challenging to find just the right help once you’ve recognized that you require it. When it comes to making change, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide or guardian to lead the way.
The same can be said of a discovery journey. Every Star Wars hero (or heroine) needs just the right Jedi Master to teach them how to handle a light saber. Just because Yoda was perfect for Luke Skywalker doesn’t mean he would have been a great fit for Rey.
If you’re trying to modernize a small or medium-sized business (SMB) by adopting digital solutions, then you’ve embarked on an expedition of your own. Whether the path ahead turns out to be rocky or rewarding depends a lot on whom you choose to be your guide.
Advantages of Partnering with a Digital Solution Provider
Deciding to let a digital solution provider (DSP) serve as your pathfinder is a smart choice. More affordable than consultants, DSPs offer highly specialized knowledge and skills. The appropriate DSP will bring to your organization:
- In-depth understanding of the digital solution they sell
- Ability to configure the solution to your specific needs
- Long-term, comprehensive technical support
- Experience integrating their solution with other solutions
Engaging a DSP should mean much more than “outsourcing” an aspect of your IT function. Ideally, it means joining forces with a partner that will get to know your business as well as their own and care about its success as deeply as you do.
Yes, this means entering into an intimate relationship. Your DSP will gain access to company data, interact with your team, and influence some of your most consequential decisions.
Finding the right DSP is a lot like finding Mr. or Ms. Right. In many ways, your relationship with your DSP will be similar to a marriage. So before you commit, be sure to do your due diligence so that the match will be made to last.
Twelve Key Questions to Ask
When you engage a DSP, you’re not just buying a solution; you’re bringing a new team member on board. Take the time, then, to get to know the organization and the specific person or persons who’d be assigned to your account.
As you consider potential DSPs, treat the evaluation process as if it were an extended interview. Examine technical brochures with the same scrutiny you’d give a résumé, and pay close attention to the way DSP representatives behave in live conversations.
As you interact with a possible DSP, here’s a dozen critical questions to explore with them:
- Do you have a dedicated person to work with our company?
Would you marry someone if you didn’t know their first name? Don’t settle for assurances that “the team” will take good care of you. A solid DSP will appoint a project lead or account manager as a personal point of contact with your business.
2. How will your process for assessing our requirements work?
The most sophisticated digital tool will miss the mark if it’s not aligned with your business processes. A well-qualified DSP will first get to know how your business works before attempting to improve it. They’ll want to engage with multiple members of your team to understand how their solution will interact not just with your existing technology but also with your people.
3. How can you help us figure out the best way to optimize your technology, working within our budget?
A DSP who’s the right fit for your company will talk in terms of “quick wins.” They’ll be able to think creatively about how to make a positive impact without blowing your entire operations budget for the year.
4. How will your digital solution help us clarify and evolve our overall strategy for modernizing our business?
The best DSPs provide generous advice along with technology. They’re willing to serve as a sounding board as you explore different options and to share their expertise as you sort through tough decisions.
5. How will you safeguard the security of our company data?
Security should be a top concern of any DSP worth a second glance. If your DSP can’t answer your questions about privacy and security in plain English, you might want to keep looking for a partner who gives straight answers.
6. What will our Digital Return on Investment (DROI) be? How soon can we expect a return?
You’ll be putting out hard cash to invest in your digital future, so you should expect a DSP to provide hard numbers estimating the payback.
7. What other companies have you worked with in our industry?
“Going digital” means very different things in different industries. Look for a DSP who speaks your language, knows your customers, and understands the challenges peculiar to your sector.
8. How will you communicate us while you’re configuring and installing the solution?
Like any other kind of project, most digital initiatives fail due to poor communication. Dashboards and automated reports serve as poor substitutes for regular, human-to-human communication. The right DSP will be willing to communicate through the channels, and on the schedule, that you find convenient and reassuring.
9. How will your work flow enable you to deal with technical snags and quickly course-correct?
Assume that any digital initiative will hit some kind of a roadblock. A trustworthy DSP will build into their work plan checkpoints so they keep vigilant and are able to address issues as soon as they arise.
10. What kind of training do you provide?
Beware of self-directed online training, without any input from a live instructor. You and your team will have questions as you start to use the new solution, and you’ll need a real person to answer them.
11. What kinds of technical support do you offer?
A DSP worth engaging should provide full-coverage technical support, including updates, maintenance, and on-demand troubleshooting. Make sure such services are available during the hours your company is likely to need them.
12. Do you provide any guarantees?
A guarantee offers the closest thing to a gold standard in the digital world. Top-tier DSPs should be so confident in the quality of their work that they’re willing to back up their promises.
Seek Success Stories
As you evaluate potential DSPs, look for stories to support claims about past successes. Such stories could take the form of:
- Customer testimonials
- Case studies
- White papers
- List of previous clients
Just as importantly, take the time to quiz the DSP about details. For instance, in relation to a particular case study, you might ask such questions as these:
- How does the situation in this case study relate to our situation?
- In what ways would the approach described in the case study need to be adapted for our company?
- What was your biggest takeaway from this client?
- What would you have done differently to deliver an even better outcome?
At the end of the day (or the end of the installation), you want to become the DSP’s next great success story. So don’t be shy about cross-examining your potential partner. Entering into such a significant relationship without giving it serious thought will serve neither you nor the DSP.
In fact, one of the surest signs that you’re speaking with a reliable DSP is their willingness to be interrogated. The best DSPs will welcome your questions and ask plenty of their own. Like you, they’ll be committed to making the relationship work from the very beginning so it will support both of you over the long term.