By D.C. Lucas
April 22, 2016
Undergoing a technology initiative in your business is stressful – and costly. It is one of the most substantial financial investments an organization can make these days, which makes the overall return on investment top of mind for business leaders. Getting the most out of your investment is a key objective in any project, but particularly when it comes to upgrading your tools. Which is why we would make the argument for engaging an implementation partner.
Now, you may be thinking “of course you are going to say that; it’s what you do,” and, yes, while that is true, we aren’t making the case for us but, rather, what an experienced partner can mean for your business and the success of your technology investment.
We have engaged with more clients than we care to admit that come to us after the fact, after having gone the less expensive route with an under-qualified implementation partner or DIY-ing their implementation internally only to realize the solution wasn’t living up to their expectations.
It’s easy to get sticker shock when looking at the project proposal and trying to cut costs here and there, but in listening to our clients’ experiences over the years and knowing industry trends first-hand, we are here to share seven of the value-adds an experienced, strategic partner can bring to your technology implementation.
They Speak the Solution
Understanding the terminology and semantics of a technology is absolutely vital to correctly implementing and utilizing the solution within your business. A distinguished solution partner has been confirmed “proficient” in the technology by the publisher. They’ll know the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity in Salesforce; the hierarchy of an Account, Contact, Activity, and Campaign and what it means for your processes; how your internal approach, whether you are more agile or traditional waterfall in your project management, affects if you adapt Case or Project functionality in your CRM, and so on.
You may look and think Ideas, Knowledgebase, and Libraries are all describing the same feature, but a knowledgeable Salesforce advisor will be able to explain the terminology and functionality nuances and translate it to your business.
Along with talking the tool’s talk, the right implementation partner will dive into your business and really get to the root of your processes and objectives. At the end of the day, the tool is only one piece of the puzzle; aligning your business’ people, process, and technology creates a completely optimized solution that will accelerate your organization. Today’s technologies are highly customizable, so just as important as understanding the functionality is knowing how to adapt the solution’s capabilities to fit your business.
What a Lead in Salesforce means for one organization could mean something completely different for another; that is the beauty and the overwhelming power of technology today. Lead scoring and custom dashboarding create a solution that is uniquely your own, but if you don’t know how to align it to your people and processes, you will never realize the return your business needs to validate the initial technology investment.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Maybe you know what data your dashboard needs to pull, or maybe you have no idea where to start. What about rolling in your internal legacy systems, integrating third-party applications, or developing custom functionality?
Customization and integration expertise is a crucial aspect to ensure that the technology you are implementing will work within the confines and goals of your organization. Otherwise, you’re essentially left with a shell of a tool, with a hefty price-tag that doesn’t actually fit at the seams. A solution advisor in this sense functions similarly to a good tailor, taking that off-the-rack product and expertly nipping at the shoulders and waist to give your organization a perfect fit. One size fits all never works – in clothing and in technology.
Designated Cooks for the Kitchen
Your focus should be on your core business, not on coordinating and carrying out an extensive implementation. Do you have the manpower and know-how to run a complete implementation, from requirements gathering to system design, data migration, and change management, in-house?
Many organizations tend to focus solely on the hard costs and overlook the opportunity costs at stake. If you want your solution to be a true accelerator for your business, it requires dedicated effort.
Rather than designating internal time and resources you likely don’t have to spare to your technology initiative, engaging an experienced external partner to coordinate, design, and integrate your solution allows you to ensure that your project continues to move forward efficiently regardless of internal churn, confident that, when all is said and done, you’ll be left with a system that is properly integrated with your business processes. Not only that, it also enables you to focus your team’s time and attention on executing the daily and strategic operations necessary for your business’ long-term, ongoing success.
Translators for the Rest of Us
What good is a fancy tool that no one understands or uses? Gaining internal acceptance and system adoption is a huge hurtle for businesses today, but thorough training and having a dedicated, go-to resource for questions are proven change management techniques. From insight on automations, reporting, and custom workflows to understanding the inner workings of the product and how processes tie together, education from people who can actually answer your team’s questions and explain things in an approachable manner is a huge advantage for your implementation’s success.
Thinking Big Picture
When you engage with an advisor that is not only skilled in the solution technology but that truly understands how your business operates, you gain a strategic partner. They will listen to your business goals and present opportunities for taking your technology initiative to the next level.
The fact is, your implementation isn’t – and shouldn’t be – done after the initial deployment. Keeping your solution stagnant through the years, despite organizational and operational flux, is a toxic practice, but it happens more than we care to admit. Leaders today need to view their technology as their organizational MVE, Most Valuable Employee, and nurture it as such. Just as you review your staff’s career objectives and role responsibilities on an – at minimum – annual basis, your business-critical ERP or CRM solution requires regular evaluations and development for continual improvement. Integrating new tools to expand system functionality, redesigning old processes, workflows and automations, and redefining the strategic goals of your business through the lens of your technology is absolutely necessary in today’s evolving marketplace. Your implementation partner will help you draw together a roadmap for the future of your solution, ensuring that your investment provides a return for years to come.
The Long Game
So here’s where I tie in that frequently debated concept that “it’ll save you money in the long run,” but the truth is, the right partner really will.
When you take into account the internal overhead required to manage a project of this size, from scope to training and ongoing development, you can make a pretty solid case for that sticker price on an implementation partner. If you hold expectations for the outcome of your implementation that you aren’t willing to compromise – be it timeline, budget, or performance – the right partner will always outperform an internal team. But not every partner.
Do your research, know what’s available in your market and what you expect; do you need on-site availability, do you require industry or feature specialization, is certification distinction a non-negotiable? Define your non-negotiables and don’t be afraid to ask your peer group. Many geographies have user groups for today’s leading technologies if you have a specific solution in mind, or ask the solution publisher themselves; most have go-to partners they frequently recommend.