Choosing the right tech vendor and value-added reseller/supplier in a crowded market – where everyone is vying for your business, can be a minefield.
What is the problem with transformation?
Technology is the enabler and is only as effective as your people and processes. You have to transform three key areas to maximise a successful outcome. The tech vendor and solution selection can complicate the process. In order to evaluate the component criteria of each element of the program, you have to have the time in the selection process – to peel back the layers of the onion.
McKinsey & Company report that 70% of transformation programs fail. While the details are available online for all to see, the number of successful transformation programs has not significantly reduced this number. From my viewpoint, having worked for tech vendors and collaborated with organisations of all sizes and business verticals, the problems experienced remain consistently similar.
Most businesses require a digital transformation strategy and plan. However, before you embark on any transformation journey, you have to understand the ‘as is’. Identify your customer base, the services you provide internally and externally, the contact management processes, the people within your organisation, the departmental structure, the technology in situ, and service performance monitoring and reporting. These are a subset of elements that will support and underpin your business objectives and challenges and will help you crystalise the success criteria. When you are presented with a plethora of options, and everyone is vying for your business, choosing the right technology vendor and service and delivery partner can be a minefield.
Vendors and partners will qualify you (if they do their jobs properly), and you need to do the same with them. Most will have a qualification framework used to determine if your project is something they can fulfil and essentially win. Whatever your procurement and purchasing process, do not be seduced by the facade you are presented. Look past this, dig in and dig deep. This isn’t straightforward, and when you’re evaluating multiple vendors, it can elongate the process to the point that the business is screaming at you to make a decision to kick start the transformation your business so dearly requires.
1. Be clear and realistic about what you want:
More importantly, be clear and practical about what you don’t want and can’t have – avoiding scope creep and adding to your list without understanding the impacts, good and bad, which can seriously hinder the outcome. Remember your ‘why’ and stick to the plan. It’s rare to have a wide open budget. Beginning with a huge shopping list that will quickly rack up the $$ impedes the project and significantly lessens a successful outcome.
2. Be inclusive and bring in relevant key stakeholders:
Your stakeholders should include members of the operational departments. Include subsets of those using and/or who have responsibility for the solution and applications, including the influencers. Please do not underestimate the power of the influencers because you need their buy-in. Give all your stakeholders a voice and recognise the value and benefits that diversity of thought can bring.
3. Do your research:
Time is a precious commodity, so use it wisely, do your homework upfront where possible, and continue to do your checks and balances throughout the engagement. Naivety should not be cited as a reason or excuse to continue only knowing what you know.
4. Are your values aligned?:
Understand and know your values and purpose. Chose a vendor and partner that align with your company values. Who can demonstrate that they embody your values as well as their own. A good culture fit is a must to maximise a successful collaboration and partnership.
5. Show me, don’t tell me:
Ask for use case demonstrations that clearly showcase the use cases and journeys for all your business units. These should be showcasing the profiles and customer/user experiences with the touchpoints for all inbound and outbound interactions. Be sure to understand and see the User and Employee experience.
6. Understand the cost:
This should include anything that is considered non-standard and standard. The cost to serve, services, enhancements, changes, additional time and resources all hike up the price. On the flip side, if something appears to be too low a cost – ask questions until you are clear that you know 100% what is and isn’t included in the price.
7. Share program updates:
Share the good, the bad and the risks. De-risk the program by highlighting management behaviours that do not support the changes required and why you may be experiencing employees who are resistant to the coming changes. Understand why anyone is resistant to the future changes and action a plan to address the why and get them onboard.
8. Choose a qualified partner:
I have experienced many organisations that constantly move from one reseller/supplier partner to another. Your SLAs should be defined, aligned with back-to-back agreements in place. If you have defined KPIs, then as your trusted advisor, your partner should be providing value-added services that support your strategy and plan.
9. People Process and Technology:
People, Process and Technology are still relevant today. These will allow you to formalise a solution that underpins your 3–5-year strategy and plan. It will also support your mission to address the current challenges and pain points. As well as avoiding being in the same place again at the time of contract renewal – or worse, being in a situation whereby you want an early exit out of your contract with the vendor and/or partner.
10. The journey is as important as the Outcome:
Of course, the outcome matters. However, the journey should be assessed and measured in parallel. After all, experience matters, and you have to remember that Customer Experience is not a product and cannot be touched or purchased. We are all customers, and in business, we need to treat each other as customers.
BEWARE – If you are regularly being told the answer is ‘Yes’ – what’s the question?
No tech vendor, partner or solution is perfect. The solution you purchase should provide value, benefits, and an enhanced experience across your business for your people and your customers. This is just the beginning of your transformation journey that should yield growth in all areas of your business. The solution and partnerships should grow and evolve as your business progresses – without having to further rip and replace and writing significant cheques (within reason).
The role of the vendor and partner should be as the trusted advisor, and they should be collaborating with you to ensure you maximise the expenditure. Continuous improvement planning should take place with a regular cadence. Collectively agreed outcomes should be defined and measured. But, of course, you can’t plan for everything, and there will be elements outside of your control. Outages happen, and software continues to have bugs – this is the reality.
What you can do is build a relationship and partnership founded on values, integrity, and honour. What counts is what people and organisations do in good times and in the face of adversity. Actions should always line up with the words that are spoken as well as what’s written in a contract.
About Shameem Smillie
About Shameem Smillie
Awarded #5 in the top 10 CX Professionals category by CXM Customer Experience Magazine. https://cxm.co.uk/cx-stars-2021-top-10-cx-professionals/
Shameem is founding member of Women in CX. https://womenincx.community/
She is a customer experience advocate and champion, focused on continual improvement in business and innovation to support a culture of empowerment. She continues to be instrumental in creating a positive, winning culture with passion, drive, and a history of exceptional contribution.
Shameem is primarily focused on the technology, applications, and the people who make up Contact Center / CCaaS – Contact Center as a Service. She is adept at leading, challenging, inspiring, and empowering people to deliver and grow beyond their expectations:
• Ensuring customers are front and centre of all interactions and humanising the interconnection between technology, businesses, and customers.
• Turn data into storytelling whilst influencing and building relationships.
• Always driving and supporting the development of solutions, go-to-market strategies, sales motions, and deployments.
• Delivering persuasive presentations/messaging/content/ to leadership, analyst briefings, industry events, webinars, and trade shows.
All whilst supporting ecosystem solutions, that enable organisations to leverage the benefits of technology as an enabler, for future-proofing their businesses, and managing their bottom line to maximise their investments.