Transforming into a digital workplace is no small task. A partnership to support your transformation requires far more than technical acumen. There are many components in a digital workplace support partnership, but here are some of the most important (and often missing)…
1. Business Analysis Expertise
Business analysts are the “bridge” between understanding what the business needs, and understanding what the technology can do. These are individuals who can work alongside your business people, and can help you to re-imagine a future workplace that operates more effectively. And then they can talk to solution experts and developers to give them the information they need to get their jobs done. The best business analysts have deep solution knowledge so they can “connect the dots” between business problems, and how the technology can be the solution.
2. Leadership Advisory Expertise
More often than not, business leadership plays the biggest role in holding a project back. Your partner needs to be able to effectively engage with your leadership to help them develop a vision for leading the change. In other words, they need the experience and credibility to be able to lead the leaders.
3. Solution Expertise
The selected partner should have deep and wide expertise in the appropriate technology solution(s). Solution experts may also be able to double as trainers (dedicated trainers are rarely as helpful as they need to be, because they don’t understand the product or your users well enough, or both). Some solution experts can also double as business analysts (making them more effective in both roles).
Using a general IT services firm (the one who handles your email servers for example) for specific digital transformation projects such as an intranet or CRM solution doesn’t usually end well. Think of it as being about the same as using a handyman to design, build, and do plumbing, electrical and HVAC on a new room you’re adding to your home. The handyman may be great for quick projects, fixes and small upgrades – but you risk leaky plumbing, house fires, sagging roof lines and cracked foundations if you try to get them to handle larger multiple-component projects.
On the other hand, a general management consulting partner is often very expensive and may lack the practical skills and knowledge of the technology to be the most effective partner for you.
4. Development Expertise
Solution experts are not the same as developers. And in spite of what the software vendor may have promised, you almost always discover a need to do at least a small amount of development to tweak a solution to fit your needs. Or, at least, integration with other solutions in your organization. Again, the selected partner should have developers whose full-time job is to work on the selected solution and perhaps one other. When a developer splits their time between multiple major applications, they end up not being very good at developing for any one of them.
5. Integration and Migration Expertise
Making different applications talk to each other is imperative. Why? One of the goals that leading organizations have in common across their individual Digital Transformation efforts is to be able to get as close possible to “single pane of glass” for their user community(ies) as this leads to both greater efficiency (and associated cost savings) and greater efficacy (which can lead to increased customer satisfaction/sales) by constraining the number of applications and pages/screens within those applications that users need to interact with to accomplish an outcome.
And migrating data from legacy applications can be critical to retaining knowledge and driving user adoption. Integration and migration experience is a unique area and requires unique expertise.
“Hold on…what? Isn’t a developer a developer?”
Well, actually, no. There are specialized tools specifically for integration as well as different patterns that can be applied and knowledge and experience with both the tools and the ‘best practices’ are very important. Migration, on the other hand, calls for someone that has deep knowledge of the data itself and it’s meaning in context and relationship and how to best transform that from the legacy environment to the new solution.
6. Application-Specific Support Expertise
When is a user not a user? When they’re waiting for IT to fix their application!
Most customer and employee engagement applications are built to be integrated with other applications (different desktop software such as Outlook/email servers, database back-ends, marketing solutions, social platforms, etc). Some of the most frequent break-downs occur when the built-in linkages between these applications are not configured correctly. Make sure your partner can handle these dicey issues for you.
7. Knowledge Transfer
The goal is not to become completely dependent on an outside organization. Work with a partner who has a track record of transferring knowledge to their clients. This can be done through training, creating internal user groups, and involving IT in resolving issues.
8. Integrity and Chemistry
It should go without saying that your partner won’t hire your employees once they get them up to speed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Our Managing Director (Lorne Rogers) personally experienced this when he was hired by an implementation partner as soon as the customer’s project was completed. Document all the expectations in your agreements. And take the time to establish that the chemistry between your teams is solid – you want a partner that will do the right thing even if it isn’t in a document. Your partner team will become a part of your own team so take hiring them as seriously as you take hiring a new employee.
9. Project Management
Coordinating all these roles, particularly when transforming the business, takes an expert. Your partner should have a project manager that can adapt to different project approaches depending on the situation. Your project manager should also have the discipline to adhere to standard processes and best practices even when there is pressure to skip them (for example: if the business wants to get started using the new digital solution without first conducting UAT, the PM should hold the project up).
10. Change Management
Given that the desire here is Digital Transformation, it is also critical that your chosen partner have resources that understand how to, and have succeeded in, getting organizations to make a change. And, while having resources that have training/certification in a Change Management discipline (such as Prosci, which is pretty common) is certainly a plus, it is at least equally important that your partner knows how to turn that formal methodology into practicalities to help your stakeholders most successfully “adapt and adopt”.
Aria Consulting is here to help you move from business frustration to business transformation. Contact us to chat about your CRM, intranet, document management or digital workplace needs.