Freelancer - Selecting a tech solutions provider—making the right choice

Selecting a tech solutions provider—making the right choice

There will always be questions you won’t have the answers to, problems that are beyond your expertise, projects that eat up too much of your time. After all, we can’t always be good at everything! Thankfully, there are specialists—people who are qualified and dedicated—who can help. Tech solutions providers are there to do just that. But to make the most informed choices, you have to be absolutely certain about your needs. Taking the time to pinpoint them is a crucial first step to be sure you improve the situation rather than aggravate it. Let’s start by getting an idea of solutions providers, specialists who generally fall into one of two categories: software providers and service providers.

Software providers sell standard prebuilt solutions that often contain more features than necessary. Some software can be purchased online and others, which are more complex, require a subscription.

Service providers are there, above all, to advise you and suggest personalized solutions. They provide consulting services, help you effectively implement a tech solution within your business, and can even design customized solutions.

But beyond these specific terms and distinctions in specializations, the most important thing is finding a specialist you trust: a partner. Let’s delve into the heart of the matter.

Clearly identifying your needs

The right problem

First of all, you need to have a clear idea of the problem to fix or the project to launch. Before considering the tools you think you may need, define the results you’re hoping to achieve. Are you aiming to increase visibility, amplify conversion, boost sales, or improve administrative processes? Be sure to zero in on your objectives and intentions. Now that you’ve pinpointed your needs, ask yourself if they’re truly adapted to your reality. Key objectives are good, but a comprehensive overview is better. Is this initiative part of a global strategy? Rather than trying to solve problems piecemeal with one-off solutions, it would likely be more efficient to rethink your approach and key processes. Because, as we all know, duct tape is never a permanent solution. Plus, even if a new tool is presented as a very simple remedy, it could actually be detrimental if you fail to consider certain fundamental factors. For example, if this solution isn’t compatible with all of your current or future systems, or if it doesn’t align with your growth objectives, you risk shooting yourself in the foot. A really good solution should be future-proof.

Do your homework

By carefully and honestly defining your needs, you’ll avoid unnecessary features from the get-go. Here’s the key information to gather to help your potential partners properly understand your expectations.

Your criteria

Draw up a list of the criteria that’s a priority for you. What’s most important? Is it how user-friendly your future system will be, proximity with your provider, how easily a system can integrate with your current structures (interoperability)? For each aspect, determine if it’s a must-have, a nice-to-have or rather an optional request. With a list of objective criteria, you’ll be sure to speak the same language as your future partner.

Your vision and your resources

How much time can you devote to this project? What resources do you have? What’s your general level of knowledge on the subject? These are key pieces of information to decipher and communicate.

The type of solution wanted

What do you want—a partner who delivers a turnkey solution, who helps you build one or who advises you about what can be improved? These vital nuances will influence the partners’ approach and will guide what kind of budget to anticipate.

Your budget

To evaluate the range of solutions at your disposal, you have to first have an idea of the financial means available to you. The important thing is to be realistic about the project’s total cost. Because on top of the expenses related to the solution itself, you also have to take into account the costs associated with implementation and training. Making an honest assessment is essential to properly pinpoint the range and scope of your solution.

Where to start

The following types of mandate are most commonly entrusted to tech solutions providers:

A turnkey solution. In this case, you’re looking for a partner to head up the implementation, such as for client relationship management (CRM), an accounting system or point of sale (POS).

A customized, bespoke solution. Your partner will be responsible for developing and implementing the solution (e.g. website, mobile app).

A total overhaul of all systems and the implementation of a digital strategy. Your partner will work with you to bring a holistic vision to life.

The platforms will vary based on what you’re looking for. If a ready-made solution is what you’re after, Google or aggregators like G2 Crowd are good places to start. If you want a customized solution, B2B service platforms like Hello Darwin will be your best bet. And asking people you know and trust who’ve gone through this same process is always an option, too.

At this stage, it’s common to be juggling with eight to ten choices. However, don’t spend more than an hour or two of research per provider. Try to filter the possibilities in order to draw up a shortlist of two or three interesting candidates. You can then move to the next step.

The first meeting

Your first meeting should allow you to determine if you get along well with the providers on your list. Focus on these two key criteria:

The proposed solution responds to all of your essential needs. Refer to your original list to be sure. Needs should guide the solution, not the other way around.

The proposed approach is in line with your values. Because collaborating with an unpleasant provider or one who doesn’t share your vision, can get tiresome—very, very tiresome.

Red flags

It’s a well-known fact: communication is the cornerstone of strong relationships. Feeling heard and respected, and especially feeling as if you’re on the same wavelength, is an essential condition for any successful partnership. If any of these situations occurs, ask yourself some serious questions about whether your potential future partnership is a good idea:

The provider tries to force their timeline on you.

They have trouble clearly and simply expressing key concepts and use pretentious jargon that creates a distance between you.

They suggest a customized solution, despite there being ready-made solutions that could easily meet your needs. Let’s be honest—in 2022, there are few situations that truly require a CRM system to be developed from scratch.

The risks

It’s smart to be prepared for all eventualities. Delays and cost overruns are always possible. Be realistic when you set your budget and timeframe. Don’t squeeze yourself dry, and keep some room to manoeuvre.

An all-new feature involves an adaptation period. It’s not uncommon to notice a temporary drop in productivity or a slight dip in service. Your partner plays a role in shortening and softening this period of adjustment.

It’s also possible your users feel a bit off balance or anxious because of a change like this. The goal is to guide and support them throughout the transition.

Tip: Start small

If you have any doubts about your team’s ability to undertake a given initiative, it might be a good idea to start with a pilot project. Find a task that can be delivered quickly and assess your capabilities on a smaller scale. That way, you’ll have more experience and you’ll be better able to understand your team’s aptitudes, as well as their limits.

In short

It’s essential to take the time to properly pinpoint the nature of your needs. Adequate preparation will allow you to make the right choices, establish mutual trust with your partner, and have a positive experience. All to avoid wasting time and money!And it’s the most decisive factor for ensuring success with your new partner. By knowing exactly what to expect and having evaluated all possible risks, you guarantee you’re one step ahead.

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