Vendor View: Choosing a Technology Partner

Only 10 percent of companies currently describe themselves as fully digital - a finding that does not bode well for the future of the other 90 percent. 

As other enterprises look to meet consumer expectations, catch up with innovative startups and modernize their systems, they begin the process of looking for vendors that will help them deliver on their goals. Somewhere along the way, they may want to consider a technology partner to guide the process in a way they may not have been able to with in-house resources.

Website Magazine enlisted the help of Sitecore Customer Experience Expert Darren Guarnaccia to provide additional* insights into selecting partners and platforms - from a vendor perspective - and Accenture's Chris Krammer provides a partner perspective here. Let's get started. 

What are some advantages and disadvantages of having a technology implementation partner?

Darren Guarnaccia, Sitecore: An implementation partner's greatest advantage is their experience designing and implementing solutions. Everyone's first project with a new technology is typically a challenge, regardless of the product. 

Experienced partners have many projects under their belt, and have built up a body of knowledge, and know how to leverage Sitecore's recommended practices such as our Helix Guidelines. This will ultimately lower long-term cost of ownership, and make future work and upgrades go more smoothly. In terms of disadvantages, it can be more expensive than in-house resources, depending on which partner you choose. However, the cheapest bid is not always the best choice. Quality of work and adherence to best practices will save you money in the long term.

What should come first: finding a product or finding a partner who then finds the solution; and why?

Guarnaccia: It largely depends on how well you understand your requirements and what you are trying to achieve. A mature organization that really knows what they need and exactly what problems they are trying to solve for can find their product first, then bring on a solution implementation partner. For organizations that don't have that level of clarity, I recommend bringing on a solution provider that can help guide the strategy and solution definition, then pick the product that fits the requirements.

What are some qualities that enterprises should look for when choosing an implementation partner?

Guarnaccia: Look for a company with a track record of successful business outcomes that resulted from that company's solution delivery, which goes beyond just being able to purely implement the software.  Make sure the partner's services lines (digital strategy, creative design, implementation, etc.) match your requirements and scope of needs, and that they have the industry knowledge fit for your business. It's important to understand what level of certified developers a partner has, but it's more important to understand the certification levels of people being proposed on your project and how old their certifications are. Typically, I like to see partners keep their certification age to no more one major version back."

Any red flags to be aware of?

Guarnaccia: Make sure you evaluate partners' proposals on an apple-to-apples basis. Make sure the scope of work matches when you compare pricing.  Sometimes partners can reduce price by removing elements from their proposal that will come back to haunt you down the road, such as implementing a personalization ready platform.

Please explain a little about the process in which Sitecore Solution Partners are chosen?

Guarnaccia: From a customer's point of view, partners are typically chosen based on a couple of factors: Their industry experience solving similar needs for other customers, the depth of their practice for Sitecore, including how many certified developers and MVP they have on staff, and the breadth of the solution they've implemented for customer (e.g. digital strategy work, creative design and/or solution implementation).
* Insights from this interview can also be found in Website Magazine's upcoming June 2017 issue. Subscribe here