Insights

5 questions to ask your digital transformation partner

July 06, 2016

You've been reading about digital transformation and the benefits you're hearing about from within enterprises. You want to start one of your own, but you know it will be costly - not only in money, but also in the amount of your time that it will consume over the next few years.

And if you're only going to get to make one big bet in the next 3 years, you need a vendor who you're confident will partner with you to achieve success. In this post, we'll examine five questions to ask your potential partners to find out if they're worth betting on.

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1. What breadth of services do you offer to achieve a digital transformation within organizations?

Some organizations prefer to cobble together teams of vendors to deliver the services required to deliver a project. Assessing the breadth of services, and their relative costs, that one vendor can provide is an important step to understanding how much additional help you'll need.

The following list of services are ones that you'll need for a successful digital transformation initiative. Making sure that your vendors can speak to these services, even if they don't supply them, will ensure they understand the role the service plays in the overall success of a transformation.

  • Strategy - this is the critical first step in understanding what digital transformation means to your organization and its corporate goals
  • User Experience Design, Creative Design & Information Architecture - these elements are critical to delivering an end user experience that meets the needs of your audience
  • Development & Delivery - probably the most costly set of services are the development, testing and deployment of the features that support the target solution
  • Governance, Change Management & Communication - planning to incorporate these critical activities in the beginning of the project ensures that there's budget available to make sure that the organization adopts the new processes, practices and tools

2. What are the cost of your services? What are some examples of these services and their corresponding ranges?

Ultimately, as a client, you'll need to negotiate around the types of services and their relative costs with the vendor. Some clients need a lot of help with their strategies and have awesome in-house change management teams, while others have budget and resource constraints that challenge vendors to deliver the full breadth of services for very low total costs.

When questioning a service provider about the cost of doing a digital transformation initiative, ask specific questions about:

  • Typical ranges for various specific services - extra points should be rewarded if they can demonstrate a lean approach to UX and Change Management and also experience with full-blown services
  • Specific breakdowns - you'll want to see that your vendor has a good solid understanding of what the steps are to deliver a service and what each step can cost
  • Project timeline communication - don't settle for a pretty visual of a typical project timeline. You want to see the underlying project management practice that went into the execution of a project. Usually this manifests itself in a project plan, but it could also be visible within a detailed budget breakdown.

3. What are the elements you use to measure success in a digital transformation?

Typical vendors will respond to this question with the standard "on time, on budget" response. Dig deeper here and expect more. You want to be on budget, but you also want to know that your vendor has a measure of success for the total transformation of your business built into their process. You should expect vendors to use well-established methods for capturing baselines and measuring change impacts on the digital transformation journey.

Here's a quick list of metrics that you should ask about:

  • Financial - over budget/on budget/below budget
  • Timeline - late/on time/ahead of schedule
  • Scope - % completed
  • Adoption - % usage / System Usability score / Happiness with solution
  • Training - % participation / training score
  • Content migration - % assessed / % targeted for migration / % correctly migrated

4. What are some examples that you can share that illustrate your commitment to delivering a digital transformation initiative?

When assessing potential vendor's commitment to delivery, you should look for examples that illustrate the following:

  • How the vendor deals with issues and their level of openness when discussing issues - At some point all projects go sideways - people get sick, technology hiccups, executives get nervous, content gets migrated incorrectly. A great  vendor will be completely open about the nature of difficulties they've experienced in the past and how they've overcome them. Use these answers to gauge whether you'll trust that a vendor won't abandon you mid-build.
  • The process the vendor uses - you're looking for a vendor who's creative, yes, but you also need them to have certain basics built in. The entire team should be speaking with the same nouns when talking about their process and have documentation that illustrates they have a strong foundation in conducting projects.
  • Resources who fit into the roles that needed - After you get a good look at the process, make sure the team that is being proposed have the skills to deliver the project. A big warning sign is a team that is missing some crucial skill - training, quality assurance, change management.

5. How much do you like your job? Why?

You're going to be working with these people for a long time. And you want to have a vendor that's as stoked as you are about the project. Their tone and response should match the enthusiasm that you have for the project. Don't fall into the trap of expecting that experienced folks are blasé about their work. This is new territory for you and you want to be journeying with a partner that's excited about the trip.

This was a cheeky post

Any service organization, like ours, that's sharing this kind of advice is probably suspect. You're certainly right to suspect that we've stacked the deck in our favour.

But, with that said, while we at Valtech hope we meet these criteria for you, we may not. And if this list helps you find and evaluate a vendor that meets these criteria better than we do: great. We're happy to have helped you find someone who you can work with!

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