In a world where technology breakthroughs are happening every second, how can you ensure, with all of the options out there that you are making the best decision for your organization? Now, read that again in a Don LaFontaine voice, it will add to the critical nature of the question, I promise.
Typically, when there is a potential need for technology, you are looking to improve experiences, collect data, and create efficiencies in a process. So, let’s start with the 5 W’s. Remember learning about those in elementary school? Me neither, so let’s recap.
- Who is impacted by this technology?
- What is going to change/improve with this technology?
- When are we going to implement this technology?
- Where will we see the most impact?
- Why, why, why? It might be last on the list, but it’s the most important to define.
I am a firm believer that technology should not drive processes within an organization, the people should. End users are the cornerstone to ensure that the right technology is being selected. There should be regular communication to understand what challenges and successes are occurring in existing procedures. Where can we automate? Where do we need less automation (yes there such a thing!). Users should be key to evaluating all solutions; from constructing the problem statement you are trying to solve for, to writing the requirements and testing to ensure this solution is right for your organization. I talk about the importance of including end users when evaluating technology a lot, and that is because it is too frequently overlooked. Include them in your selection process!
Now, what about that selection process? This is why that "why" is so important. The market is saturated with automation solutions for just about everything. Your organization should focus on a few things:
- What is the problem we are trying to solve?
- What is the impact if we do not adopt this new technology?
- What is the impact if we do adopt this new technology?
On to the evaluation
Now that we have determined the above "why" in detail, and have general consensus among key internal stakeholders, let’s start the evaluation. Do your research and understand who the existing big players are in the marketplace, and do not discount up and coming stars (Tip: the best solution will be for your company, your culture, your strategy isn’t necessarily the technology with the biggest name in the market or the solution with the most impressive customer portfolio!). Identify your five non-negotiables for this technology, your MVP (minimum viable product). Send out an RFP (request for proposal) and cast a net large enough you can review multiple vendors in depth but small enough that your internal resources can still process.
The technology companies that respond will come at you with a ton of information. Aimed to impress, to gain face time, to close the deal. Depending on how many responses you receive, pick your top 3-5 based on those, you guessed it, MVPs you have already designated! With your identified stakeholder team (don’t forget some end users!), have significant product reviews with these companies. Ask questions, ask hard questions. Aim to get a good sense of what they cannot just accommodate, but excel at based on your requirements. Look at things from a MVP, best case, worst case perspective. Make sure your team takes detailed notes with each vendor about each requirement that has been documented. A lot of companies (especially larger ones) use a point grading system to easily identify the top vendors.
References and reviews; get them, digest them, talk about them with the vendor, but also take them with a grain of salt. We know that vendors are going to provide us with clients that are going to give generally positive references, so what’s the point, right? The point is comparing the experiences of clients across different vendors. You can determine little gems like, this vendor sounds like they are heavy on technical knowledge, but aren't able to consult from a strategic direction, or vice versa. And, negative reviews, this is what I will say about that – not one size fits all. Something that did not work for one company, may work for you. Use common sense when taking in negative comments. Are the negative reviews giving constructive information? Or is it just “this sucks”! (not valuable).
It isn’t just about the technology!Yes, being able to accommodate your technology requirements is very important, but there is more to consider. Implementing an innovative technology can be a mammoth undertaking, from design and build, integrations, to quality assurance and acceptance. So, you are going to be working with your selected partner closely and maybe even for a long time! What’s important about this? There needs to be rapport and trust – a relationship between your organization and the partner charged with this success. Treat your selection as you would when you are hiring an internal employee. Are they going to be a great member or the team, or will they be dead weight? Having this relationship is icing on the cake to a successful implementation.
Sum it up for me, Sarah!
- Process before technology
- Document the business case, including the 5 W’s and the impacts of the business from a productivity and revenue standpoint
- Use common sense when considering references and reviews
- Don’t forget to consider the rapport between yourself and the partner!
And…HAVE FUN! You are investing in your organization – contributing to your company’s transition to best in class, productivity-enhancing, top and bottom line impacting technologies!