In a recent meeting with a client, after discussing our approach to a digital scenario we had created in his industry, he began enumerating all the things he and his team had to do to catch up to where he felt he could be competitive. Interestingly, his biggest challenge was not where to take his company or what initiatives to prioritize; rather, it was the number of vendors in the digital space vying for his business.
This is not uncommon. Many leaders I speak to tell me they hear pitches containing the same stuff they’ve been hearing for five years or more, with no real substance or context aligning to the new digital imperatives. Some vendors try to tie clients into their specific technologies and processes without really helping (or even understanding) their digital business imperatives. This creates major vendor fatigue and compounds the challenges executives already face.
Leaders must have clear goals and objectives that align to their digital business strategy and ensure they have optimized their processes. For help with that, they need a vendor with a strong pedigree, dedicated teams, and core frameworks and artifacts that support these activities. I recommend asking to see deliverables and case studies to determine the company’s expertise.
I strongly caution seeking strategic advice from a product vendor. As experienced as they may be in a particular industry or technology, their strategy is tied to their product goals. You may well run into vendor lock, creating the possibility of cost overruns and inefficiencies. I have respect for product vendors and the work they do building solutions, but I have seen many executives pressured into a hasty, regrettable decision based on strong marketing and a sales pitch based on how great their world will be when it revolves around that vendor.
It’s critical to determine whether or not the vendor has a holistic set of capabilities to provide top-notch product implementation and configuration as well as world- class business analysis, requirements validation, quality assurance and testing, and integration with emerging technologies such as cloud, mobile, social, and analytics.
The idea is to select a vendor that can provide a seamless, end-to-end solution to your enterprise digital business initiatives. By selecting a company that is vendor neutral, has domain expertise, has historical references at all scales, and has teams that truly understand your business, you will gain a true consulting partner.
Of course, not every IT consulting firm is the right fit for your business. Those with a culture of innovation proven through R&D efforts, innovation programs, and investments in innovation labs will have a better handle on how best to drive enterprise-grade digital business initiatives. Look for a company able to focus on aligning business strategy to outcomes, redefining end-to-end business processes, putting the customer experience at the center of the business, and helping you tackle technology and integration challenges while institutionalizing a culture of innovation across all initiatives.