How to choose a new technology partner
The core signs you should look for while searching for a new, prospective technology partner in the digital platform realm.
Just like physical tools can become rusty, blunt, and outdated as the years pass, so can digital tools. There are many examples where the digital solutions that agencies help implement or deliver are becoming obsolete: The solution can simply have become outdated or lacks necessary functionality, or the vendor has become increasingly absent from the market, has changed their pricing model, or has priced themselves out of the market.
Maybe it falls back on you: Your company may be expanding onto a new, unfamiliar solutions area, are changing your strategic choices, or are growing into new industries and areas.
In any case, if the time is ripe to find a new technology partner that offers modern technologies to keep you ahead of the competition, you need to investigate thoroughly and consider carefully. Here we will walk through the process of choosing a new technology partner.
The first and natural step is to commence research of potentially suitable vendors in your industry or geography—whatever suits you best. Questions you should ask yourself are:
While assessing these questions, you should also be aware of the mindset of your customers. They are supposed to use and buy into a new technical solution just as much as you.
After gathering information and doing assessments, it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff by creating a shortlist. This list of vendors will be subject to more meticulous research and trials, so make sure it is a quality collection from the start.
Having your customers in mind is always important—also in the evaluation phase. The first step here is to create a requirement specification that mirrors your typical customer and send this to the prospective vendor partners on the shortlist.
If the vendor offers an open source solution, you can of course test it thoroughly yourself to see whether it solves all or most of common requirements, like:
When you receive the answers to the requirement specification from the potential vendors, you must thoroughly review all the features and make sure the solution fits your and your customers’ requirements within reasonable boundaries.
Equipped with the vendor answers, it is time to decide where in the digital platform universe the vendor belongs. If the vendor’s main focus is on page building, they may be placed in the traditional CMS category. If the vendor is strong on structured content and APIs, but not on page building, URL management, and previewing, it may belong in the headless CMS category. If the vendor’s solution encompasses all these features, it can be classified as a hybrid CMS.
As a general rule, the use cases for each type of CMS can be summarized as the following:
When you have your use case clear in mind, you can ask the vendor to perform a demo of the platform, which specifically targets the features suited for the type of CMS you think fits best for you and your customers.
Parallel to the evaluation of the digital platform itself is the assessment of the vendor. An obvious aspect to evaluate is the chemistry between your organization and the vendor. Do you work well together? Do you communicate clearly? Are agreements honored and upheld?
Other factors to assess are the pricing model, the transparency of the company, and what reputation they have in the industry. Whether they are open source or not may be a crucial factor, and don’t forget to study the growth and financial analysis as well.
It is important to remember that a vendor not only delivers a solution, but also a concept. You and the vendor should act as a team, and your future collaboration should be like a machine that helps you grow your own business.
Finally, do not forget to check and verify references, like current and former customers and partners.
A sign of a vendor’s commitment to their partners can manifest itself as a more or less formal partner program. Does the vendor have a partner program in place? What does the vendor offer in bid support, marketing support, presale support, and revenue share?
A final step before reaching a decision in regard to a new technology partner can often be the proof of concept (PoC). While everyone can deliver a great demo, delivering a great PoC is an entirely different undertaking. With a PoC, you and the vendor can collaborate to build a working solution for a customer, aiming to fulfill specific requirements and demonstrate the platform’s real life feasibility.
If the vendor platform is open source, you can of course evaluate many features early on, thus saving time and getting to the essentials of what you and your customers are trying to accomplish with the PoC.
In the decision phase you can work together with a potential vendor to close a customer, and to get hands-on experience with the solution. This can be achieved by a PoC as mentioned above.
In this final phase it can also be worthwhile to consider what training is offered for your developers and sales team in regard to the platform. The more documented and course-ready a vendor is, the faster your company can get up to speed and begin building solutions for your customers and become more credible sellers.
In conclusion: If all or most of the boxes tick off for a vendor, you have solid grounds on which to base your decision. Now it is up to you to convince your board or your team. Good luck!