When engaging a technology vendor there are absolutely some things you can do that will help ensure you get the most for your money while getting a quality product and even having some fun in the process. Let me share with you some advice, of sorts, on how to maximize your return when working with a vendor that is building software for you. These have worked for me when I've procured technology vendors for companies like Coca-Cola, CNN and Dollywood.
1. Hire a partner that is smarter than you. Then trust them by listening to them. These vendors have smart people working for them that have had tons of experience across different verticals. Capitalize on that! They have perspective that you don’t because they’ve been working with varied industries. Some of them win awards for your competition! Get them to bring the good stuff to your brand. Get a firm to bring you their best.
2. Tell them what you want, not how to do it. Your partner needs you to give requirements not technology directives. Good firms will approach this subject with you professionally when needed. Weak firms will do what you say even though you are wrong. Stay away from the "Yes Men" firms. Stick to explaining what you need the software to do and let the vendor decide the details of how to build it. Remember, you hired a smart partner….didn’t you?!
3. Pay your bills on-time. In a perfect world, this shouldn't matter but this world is far from perfect. If your Account Manager doesn't have to deal with past-due invoices they have more time to deliver quality and drive velocity on the Development Team. Enough said here.
4. Be nice. It's that simple. Actually, I should have made this number one in this list. Project Managers will fight for you if you’re nice. There are tech firms with tech people that will give you far more than you paid for if you are easy to work with. Trust me on this one!
5.Connect with your vendor on a personal level. That Project Manager at your vendor has personal interests and they may even be the same as yours. Get to know the vendor's senior leadership as well. It starts to get real interesting for you when you find out the CEO of your software vendor has season tickets to your favorite team. The main thing here though is not what you can get out of them but rather you and the vendor will work better together if you make a connection on a topic other than software.
Let me share with you one last thing that I think is really kind of the "secret sauce" of getting the most bang for your buck with technology vendors. This is not an opinion everyone agrees with but it's just my advice: Don't be the smallest client your vendor services.
If you are the smallest client then you'll tend to expect more than your budget will allow for. The vendor will try to give you the same service that they give Disney but let's be realistic. I've seen it happen. Even the best software firms struggle with this. Your Account Manager will have to fight to get resources for you and the contract will always be pulled out in meetings. Smaller shops have less depth to their talent but he bigger shops send their top talent to work on their biggest accounts. Wouldn't you rather be the marquee client for a smaller shop than the smallest client of a big shop?
You and your brand deserve the best experience possible from your technology partner. So make it a true partnership! Partner with the right shop, get in and get personal, give it your all and expect them to give their best as well. Be nice, pay your bills and have fun along the way. Go build something great together!
This article also appeared on the SOLTECH blog in August 2017.