Is your business preparing for the hyper-digital customer?

Perhaps it’s time to re-haul your technology base. You’re looking to put together a best-of-breed technology solution so you have a better understanding of your customer. AND enhance your customer’s experience with your brand.

The related expenses, not to mention the complexity, will probably make you want to run in the opposite direction. If only the stakes weren’t so high.

Here are some steps that can help make the process easier.

1) Overshoot in the request for proposal (RFP)

Scalability, ease of operation, and ownership of technology should be some of the important considerations at the RFP preparation stage.

I would even recommend asking for the moon, all those bells and whistles you know you don’t need right now. Just make sure you denote the priority level.

An external resource or consultant can be of value during this process. Expect any such resource to bring an unbiased perspective and help gather information from all stakeholders, ensuring that all business needs are well represented in the RFP.

Watch out: Even with a competent consultant, you probably need at least one technically astute internal stake holder to steer the project to what is important to the business in the long-run in terms of technological direction.

2) Use the ‘response to RFP’ process to assess vendor

There will be some vendors who show interest in understanding your business needs more than others.

Even if you think you did an awesome job with the requirements list, it’s virtually impossible for a vendor to understand details well enough to be able to provide you with an accurate estimate.

Though time-consuming, do invest in building relationships with potential vendors. Keep an eye on the vendor’s competency, communication, and flexibility as part of the vendor assessment process.

Watch out: Again a technically competent staff member should play a key role in your assessment and shortlisting process.

3) Insist on a discovery phase

The responses to your RFP are in. Now that you’ve received that huge estimate you can hardly afford, thanks to your lunar ambitions, it’s time to break the project into smaller phases.

The first phase should be a discovery phase, where you invest a part of your budget for detailed design and architectural documents.

Your deliverables should include detailed mock-up designs of all screens, wireframes, high-level architecture, low-level architecture, timelines, schedule, and pricing estimates of proposed solutions.

The contract for this phase should also state in no uncertain terms, that all deliverables from this phase belong to you alone and not the vendor.

At the end of this phase you should have a detailed blueprint of your technology solution, based on the business priorities you have defined in collaboration with your vendor.

Play special heed to inclusions of any proprietary software or customizations that could indicate high recurring maintenance and upgrade costs. Request a rework on those if needed.

4) Simplify! Break it down some more

Not happy with the estimates? You now have a detailed document that includes a well-defined scope to negotiate with the vendor.

Or even break the project down into smaller chunks.

You also have all you need to shop around. Maybe individual CMS, CRM, and other technology stack components that you have narrowed down to, allows a specialist to drive implementation of each component.

A major technology upgrade project could be a very complex undertaking, especially if your business process has resulted in this complex technically nebulous jigsaw over all these years.

Breaking down the project into smaller phases can help you tackle your technology stack integration project efficiently and resourcefully.

The above tips have made things easier for me more than once.

Your turn. What other tips would you share to ensure that a CMS/CRM/LMS/ERP/Analytics/Marketing stack integration project is implemented successfully?

What did you do to innovate and lead in the implementation of such projects?

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