How to choose a partner?

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A headache is NOT a headache, is NOT a headache. Different types of headaches have different causes and therefore different treatments. And sometimes, it takes an expert to identify the cause and prescribe the treatment.

So it is with business needs. Not all are solved by straightforward means. Sometimes, it’s better to call in the experts and have them prescribe the solution. In a tight economy, businesses cannot afford to undertake a project that is saddled with mistakes, delays, miscommunications, and cost overruns.

A good partner will have three basic qualifications to help their clients implement the right solution. If an integrator is missing one of the three fundamentals, you probably will not have a good fit for a project. Selecting your partner needs to be based on the sound business fundamentals of

Technology expertise,
Industry experience,
Solution design over OEM and
Best business practices

Technical functionality over Brand
A technically sound vendor will be able to help you differentiate the Brand the market normally pushes from the product that best suits your business need. Not all problems are resolved by the big brands. Sometimes, they may actually have features and functionality that are more than what your enterprise needs. It’s important to strip down the business problem and focus on what exactly is needed. This requires expertise which your vendor partners should posses.

This is where the specialist vendor firms become critical. A generalist firm will not be able to add the value your business actually needs. Specialist vendors are normally at the cutting edge of their chosen field of expertise. Hence, they will be up-to-date on the latest developments in their field and help you choose products that are current and good value for money.

If the partner offers to tackle issues outside of the company’s business domain, be cautious.

When grey hair counts

Just as expertise is important, so also, it is important that your vendor partner have wide-ranging experience in their field. Technology is evolving so rapidly that there is a plethora of choice in front of the business. Vendors who have years of experience behind them are the ones who seen problems so many times before that they know exactly how to make the solution work.

An experienced vendor will help you choose:

Will a product or a service suit the business better?
What is the right combination of hardware and software?
Should the business buy or rent or do a combination of both?

The experienced vendor has seen what works and what does not. And that could be the difference between a successfully implemented project and a failed one.

Customer needs on priority

Vendors who are tied to their customer are the ones who are most likely to succeed in implementing a project. Once the vendor partner’s interests are anchored on your need, they will look for the best of breed products from various OEMs that suit that particular need – rather than focus on pushing the products of the OEMs that they are closely aligned to.

However, this is not easy to achieve. Your partner needs to have the exposure to the latest in their field, have the technical expertise across brands to design a solution and have the in-house capability to execute the project successfully.

Quiz your vendor partner on the pros and cons of a particular brand versus the rest. Find out why they are recommending a particular brand. It’s best to spend time before the project starts to ensure that there are no hiccups when the implementation begins.

Solution design is an art that has been perfected by only a few – the few who have the expertise and experience necessary to do what’s best for their customer rather than their OEM partner.

The process does matter

There are few industry standards or benchmarks that define a good process that can be implemented to make a project successful. Some firms rely on the ISO 9001 certification, which reflects a global standard for consistency in business processes. But there’s no guarantee that an ISO 9001-certified system integrator uses business processes that result in successful projects.

There are some factors that must be considered while selecting your vendor partner:

Does your partner have an in-house program that focuses on development, training, recruitment, and retention?
Have their engineers been trained and certified in products, design and Integration?
Has the vendor thought through the risks of the project? And do they have a plan to manage those risks?
At the conclusion of the project, what kinds of training documentation, manuals, and records will be included as a project deliverable?
Does the integrator respond in hours or days to requests?
Has your partner been able to establish the strategic objectives and goals of the project at the very outset?