Many enterprises select a technology integrator for their complex, multi-site technology deployment projects based exclusively on price or availability or the fact that they have used them before. However, with a little investigation, you can choose - not just any integrator, but the right integrator for your project. Here are 7 tips for identifying the partner resource that you really need.
1. Ensure values align
It may sound like a secondary consideration, but culture is critical. If your team is buttoned up, highly organized and deadline-driven and your technology partner is more detail- than deadline-oriented, the partnership may not be a good fit. If you need a partner that can work with a variety of players and your integrator likes to work exclusively with their own team, there may be challenges ahead. Take time to learn about the company values of your integrator partner. See if they align with your own values. Make sure it’s a good cultural fit.
2. Look for flexibility
Flexibility is critical because sometimes the unexpected requires a change in plans. For example, if a company plans to deploy the latest, greatest wireless technology, vets the technology, gets team buy-in, receives budget approval but then realizes that the current wireless infrastructure will be overwhelmed as soon as the technology goes live, it’s important to shift gears to ensure the long-term success of the project. Is your integrator willing and able to pivot, adjusting project plans, taking necessary action and sharing their expertise to solve the problem at hand?
3. Choose a technology integration team that conducts pilots
When it comes to large-scale, multi-site rollouts, it’s important to understand the environment prior to launching a project nationwide. It’s always a good idea to conduct a pilot program. Pilots identify a limited number of stores and stage a rollout for that select group. This provides on-the-job-training that allows the project manager and team to learn as much about the situation as possible: obstacles, logistics in the field, what it’s like to work with the client’s team, and more. Pilots provide invaluable insight that allows the team to make adjustments, refine the process and ultimately streamline the complete project. If your integrator kicks off a major deployment without recommending a pilot, you may want to consider another integrator.
4. Pick someone who knows local
Particularly in the case of new store openings, working with an integrator that has performed work in that particular jurisdiction is important. Licensing, labor laws, permitting, and fire requirements differ in every single jurisdiction. Is the local Head of Jurisdiction tough on particular requirements? Is union labor required? Are there typically long lead times associated with permitting? If the integrator does not have specific experience in the jurisdiction in which they are working, there can be obstacles that cause delays, increase prices or even prevent store openings. Integrators that operate locally know these eccentricities and can predict and avoid problems.
5. Make sure they value communication
Multi-site deployments are complicated. It’s a simple fact of life. There are multiple players, different locations, tight deadlines, unexpected challenges and delays. You need a team that can work through those challenges and a key to being able to do that is communication. Make sure your integrator is a proactive communicator and holds regular review meetings for the team in its entirety and in-person annual reviews. These communication protocols should be set up early in the project planning phases and should specify the people, process and tools that are in place to ensure regular communication and reporting.
Another good reason for regular communication is to maintain a seamless working environment when turnover occurs. Information needs to be resident in the team as a whole so that changes in individual staffing do not have a negative impact on the project. Choose an integrator that prioritizes communication.
6. Make sure they learn from mistakes
No project is perfect. Technology deployments are complicated beasts and there is always room for improvement. Make sure your integrator takes time to formally close out major projects. This review should include an assessment of things that worked well and areas that needed improvement. Lessons learned can by conducted at select milestones during the project to begin reaping benefits immediately or, at a minimum, upon completion of the project. Make sure your integrator partner is willing and able to learn from their mistakes.
7. Look for ongoing technology services and support
Finally, you will benefit from selecting a technology integrator that can support your technology after it is deployed in the field. Carefully evaluate support needs for your particular situation – it may be help desk support for your internal IT team or for your employees, or depot repair or 24/7 device monitoring for the most critical of technologies. Take time to understand your ongoing managed services needs and then evaluate if your technology integrator provides some or all of these services.