Which Comes First in Digital Transformation, the Partner or the Software?

Enterprises are often quick to share stories of successful digital transformations - but there are many untold tales of technology implementations gone terribly wrong when thousands of dollars (sometimes millions depending on the project scope and scale) are wasted because the wrong people, partners or solutions were in place to see the project through to successful completion.

On the other hand, there are many organizations just beginning to prioritize customer experience (a cornerstone of digital transformation) and consider the resources needed to achieve it. Regardless of industry, they are being pushed by nimble startups that have changed how consumers believe products and services should be delivered (e.g., real-time for a private car, in two days for online purchases, weekly for personalized subscription boxes, monthly for software usage).

"Every digital transformation journey will be different and adjusted on the fly - keeping customers means constantly adapting to their changing needs," said Chris Krammer, global managing director of technology at Accenture. "Technology is playing an unprecedented role in this transformation by determining existing capabilities, creating a roadmap and implementing new platforms or solutions."

Many companies struggle to keep pace with the vast number of technology platforms, solutions and services, warns Krammer, and this is where an experienced partner can prove useful as they can sift through the multitude of options and help find the best one for a company's specific needs. The question remains, however, what should come first? Should an enterprise find a product themselves or find a partner who then finds the optimal solution(s)?

"It largely depends on how well you understand your requirements and what you are trying to achieve," said Darren Guarnaccia, customer experience expert at Sitecore. "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."

It will be up to enterprises, however, to ensure their implementation partners remain impartial regarding the technology chosen - with their client's best interests at heart, not their relationships with vendors.

"Accenture has established formal and informal alliance relationships with hundreds of technology companies globally," said Krammer. "To help our clients derive value from our network of alliances, Accenture has a global staff of highly trained technology and alliance professionals that have a wide range of experience and expertise - we know the market, we know the players, and we know the products and offerings. For instance, Accenture was recently named Global Partner of the Year by SAP Hybris, as well as the number one provider of global services for Salesforce.com. We always act vendor agnostic and run a neutral capabilities assessment before we start with the vendor selection."

The greatest advantage of leveraging an implementation partner is often their experience designing and implementing solutions. Such is the case with enterprise-level products like that of Sitecore.

"Everyone's first project with a new technology is typically a challenge, regardless of the product," said Guarnaccia. "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."

Of course, taking advantage of that expertise is not always the least costly approach.

"In terms of disadvantages, it can be more expensive than in-house resources, depending on which partner you choose," said Guarnaccia. "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."

When calculating digital gains, they aren't always immediately obvious.

"Companies must look at digital transformation as part of a lasting vision for change, making long-term investments instead of focusing only on point solutions that promise a fast payoff," said Krammer. "Technology solutions are converging in new ways to create new experiences - for instance, customer relationship management meshing with the Internet of Things and augmented reality - to build new services and unique, differentiated customer experiences."