When you are a manufacturer of your own products or parts and equipment for others and looking to add to your companies skills to find a Digital Partner that can work with your team to deliver a new level of digital integration and sales marketing, it is good to do some research.
Companies typically list technical skills and services, location/s and the size of team on their website.
Before you commit it is also worth looking into their "Back Office" to understand the company you will partner with.
Spend some time thinking about questions that will aid your assessment, to help you we have provided some topics that we think are worth examining.
1. Establish time is taken to provision new systems
Initial conversations for new larger systems to be provisioned and deployed should be requested to how long that system may take to be accessible to developers or designers and then be usable by you.
Modern practices that are capable will be able to set up automation for deployment so that once set up initially new systems can be stood up and down very rapidly, either for testing or to allow for scale, relocation and recovery. The level of automation across the business for finished products can be assessed to the maturity and scale they operate.
If a Digital Partner is new to a system or technology it may take weeks for the first deliverable rather than hours, so being kept aware of this helps alignment of expectation.
2. Managing partners responses
Once arrangements and communication are underway on a project, be sure to manage timely nature of your partner's responses (and your own). Good two-way communication keeps visibility high and decisions can be given promptly.
Enquire about how the partner will acknowledge incoming requests. Do they maintain a ticketing system or particular channels for communication and also for expedited actions. The best systems will receive these electronically and formal processes route the tickets. Visibility to the status of these tickets and likely next progress should be sort as part of these solutions.
Respect if they require all communication to go via the project lead rather than seeking multiple channels that may conflict across the working group.
3. Inspecting incoming deliverables
Once purchases are authorised on your behalf by the Digital Partner, be sure to follow up on the timely acquisition and installation. Take accounting ownership of licences and contract terms with 3rd parties. Allowing you to do you're own legal and business due diligence to cover security, GDPR, and business practices.
For assets and deliverables that the project team delivers for your approval, be aware the format and process for these. If there is a channel or software for this process make sure you have been trained sufficiently.
The Digital Partner will seek to agree on windows of time for assessment, or deadlines for approval and changes in QA. Make time or seek to balance it with your own company practices so as not to hamper the speed of delivery. Executive signs off from you will often be needed to not result in standing down the project team to wait for a decision.
Many good companies work with Agile practices in Sprints of work that are typically set between 2-4 weeks and repeat with fixed definitions of the work tasks to be achieved. Seek to fit these models and also feed in any key shipping, holiday or events dates to let the partner work around them.
4. What if things don’t go to plan
It is not unexpected within digital production environment that all things go to plan. Running a business yourself you know that things change and new solutions are not perfect. Things take practice and refinement. In agile processes, failure is often sort for, as if the learning cycle is fast and the project team can "fail fast" the learnings and experiences are accelerated. Each iteration pushed for a break, and then the next iteration is improved and grows in quality. Much like putting a Q&A process of 10,000 hours of operation.
If things do go wrong, it is how they are dealt with and kept on track that is important. For systems failures, this is to have documented and automated the process to get an application back running with minimal downtime. For task failure, the process of being able to halt the team, assess a retrospective and feedback the fix to all parties. Make time for the regular production meetings for the results of the successful and failed to learn to keep the communication transparent. Enquire what systems and processes does the Digital Partner use.
When changes are going to result in delays ask the Digital Partner to clearly communicate the issue and the plan for keeping things moving. If deliverables need to be reordered or re-prioritised then how will this process be dealt with and communicated to all parties.
5. Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
When the project is in production and use by customers, or internal teams, having a DRP to deal with different eventualities reduces exposure to risk.
Most commonly this will cover, system down, security event, maintenance and upgrade windows and new feature rolls out. It is practical to also cover, change of ownership of any 3rd party products and services, end of life of a 3rd party, natural disaster and war or conflict. These more dramatic events are seldom seen in years of operation but can be hard to plan for at short notice, so have backup and security procedures in place.
If the DRP covers only the partner's risk and insurance to their own assets and offices and not to the work readiness of the project partnership the goals may be miss aligned. Being able to account for staff turn over and 3rd party due diligence along with the IT systems procedures mentioned will cover more successful outcomes and minimal time lost.
6. Recruitment, training and retention
Ascertain the structure of the supporting and any project teams. Do they have a good team balance, where they respect staff working hours and different needs? Participation in community activities and healthy lifestyle. Where appropriate is health and safety up to date and all staff aware of the procedure.
Staff ability to be kept aware of their clients needs, and be able to answer questions cross-functionally to not silo delays. Coupled with training and is up to date and trained on the latest software.
Knowing the management are involved long term in the staffs training and wellbeing will indicate more stability of project engagements.
7. Background strength
This can be worth asking, of past client's of your prospective Digital Partner. What scale and range of applications and websites have they built. Have they worked with other companies in your industry and country? Prior to the agreement, you can ask for references and contact their clients to check they met the requirements of other projects.
Ask to see their Standard Operating Terms for work such as you are discussing. These can then be checked that they line up with your own practices and any details can be worked out ahead of projects commencement.
Meeting any prospective partners face-to-face to sign contracts and in person or over video chat before a couple of times, to see that in person matches up to the sales claims. Language barriers can also be assessed for good communication. Working with people you have seen and can relate to well will result in better confidence in a successful outcome.
Draw up a plan together
Holdingbay is a Boutique Digital Agency who work with those companies that have positive sales targets and good work ethics. We specialise in B2B sales cycles that are longer or require more touch points and stronger relationships. Contact us, Should you be interested to work with us or have an introductory consulting call on your business targets, we are hear to get you more business