Ask these 10 questions when you’re interviewing technology partners.
If you spend more than, say, 15 minutes, in the B2B world, you’ll quickly pick up on a few facts, such as:
Customer experience is king
People want fast, convenient, self-serve technology
Everyone’s embarking on the all-consuming digital transformation journey
It’s no secret that the typical B2B customer is changing. While it’s tempting to continue viewing Millennials as bike-sharing 20-somethings who can’t get enough avocados, it’s time to accept that the oldest Millennials are turning 40 soon. In fact, they’ve been the largest demographic in the workforce for a couple of years now, and they are growing into management, purchasing and other decision-making roles across a diverse range of industries. For a lot of industrial testing and maintenance companies, that means scrambling to bring old systems up-to-date to appeal to this new, digital-savvy customer base. Sound familiar? Rest assured you’re in good company – nearly 90 percent of B2B companies have a plan in the works (to some degree) to shift to a digital-first strategy. And lots of them are struggling with how to execute it.
Enter the software vendor.
With all these new technology initiatives sprouting up, there is no shortage of software and development companies vying for technology partnerships. It can be tricky to decide who’s the right fit for your business needs. As with any business relationship, part of your decision is going to come down to chemistry, intuition, references and price. And, naturally, you can narrow the field quite a bit by defining what specific skillset you need and if your project goals merit a developer with niche industry experience. However, across the board, these three qualities are must-haves in our book:
Whether or not you need your software vendor to understand your industry inside out (compliance, regulations, security protocols, etc.), you’ll likely want a development team with some business acumen and entrepreneurship. This ensures that (A) they understand how your project contributes to your overall business goals, (B) they can bring results-focused ideas to the table and (C) they value measuring the success of the solution and can help set up a framework for that. During the vetting stage, try asking:
What’s one of the toughest challenges a customer brought to you and how did you help solve it?
What percentage of your time do you spend on innovation and product development?
How do you define and measure project success?
Tech startups can be super agile, creative and helpful. Of course, they can also shift focus or even disappear entirely. A lot of people have concerns that their technology partner won’t be in it for the long haul, which can be a scary thought if you don’t have the time or know-how to maintain new technology solutions. If transparency and longevity are concerns for you, here are a few questions you may want to ask:
Does your firm use third-party contractors?
Where are you based, and how long have you been at that location?
How long does your average customer relationship last?
We know how it goes – everyone wants their projects done yesterday, which is completely legit when you have big business goals hinging on your new technology. In addition to project completion, you’re probably also thinking about ongoing service and support. If something breaks, can they fix it right away? Will they be on top of necessary updates? Here are a few questions you can ask:
What’s your average implementation time?
How many service hours are built into our contract?
Will we have a single point of contact to manage our needs?
How often do you make updates to your software, and how do you typically communicate those updates to customers?
There are a ton of qualified software vendors out there, but each one has their own areas of expertise. Not every tech company is right for every job. We know. We’re a pretty flexible software shop, but we definitely know which projects we could rock and which we would respectfully recommend someone else for. Best of luck with all your tech endeavors! And feel free to reach out if you ever want to pick our brains about ‘em.