Published: February 13, 2018 | Comments
“Begin with the end in mind.” -Stephen Covey.
This is a quote you should aim to remember any time you start searching for, selecting, and implementing new technology. At each stage of the process you should be thinking about your end user, new and on-going training needs, and the pitfalls you may encounter. The first step in the entire “new technology” process is to search for and select your technology partner. For more on this stage, you can click here for 3 Tips When Searching for Contact Center Technology. The type of technology you’re implementing and the deployment model will profoundly influence the length, effort, and resources required for implementation.
There are four primary technology deployment models: on-premises, hosted, cloud, or hybrid (typically a mix of on-premises and cloud or on-premises and hosted). The model that you select will play a vital role in the implementation effort and required resources – influencing the ongoing maintenance of the technology. The most significant comparison is typically between cloud and on-premises; here is a video with an overview of the pros and cons of cloud versus on-premises deployment models.
Once you have a good grasp on the types of deployment models, you should then focus on the provider of the technology you’re seeking. I’ve narrowed some of the critical aspects to consider when you examine technology providers. Despite whether or not you have an incumbent provider, you should review all candidates equally as many of the legacy technology providers are no longer best-in-breed. Consider these four components when examining technology partners:
Look at the overall health of the company. Have they had any recent financial troubles like bankruptcy filings? Is their stock price (if public) performing well? Ask questions about the growth of their staff. The latter question is a good indicator of whether or not their growth is stretching their resources of if their labor growth is in line with their stated business performance. The primary reason you should care about these things is that you should be able to gain an understanding of how and where they’re investing in their business and thus the products you might be buying. If bankruptcy is an on-going or recent experience, it’s clear that they will have a decent amount of resources going toward solving their financial struggles. Similarly, if their stock price is trending favorably, they should have a continuously improving market cap - allowing greater investment in growing the business, resulting in expanded products and features from which you can benefit.
Depth and Speed of Innovation
Almost all technology companies boast innovation, but you need to peel back the onion and get a real sense of how they innovate and how fast they are bringing new products and features to market. In my experience, there are two reliable ways to get a real sense of these things. First, ask for customer references with various amounts of time using their technology; one customer with five years’ experience, one with two years’ experience, and one with less than a year. Start with the one year customer and work your way back. Structure your interview questions to build on each other as you move through the referrals.
- For the new customer, ask questions focused on whether or not the technology is meeting the expectations that were initially set by the provider.
- Ask the mid-term customer about support, uptime and system reliability.
- And for the long-term customer, ask about the speed of new features and whether or not the vendor continues to solve new problems on pace with their needs. You should consider asking about costs to upgrade or the cost to add new features; you want this answer to be “free,” ideally. Also, ask if the technology can scale, up and/or down, to meet their needs.
Second, ask the vendor for their product roadmap for the upcoming 10-12 month period. Get a sense of the volume and complexity of the items listed on their roadmap. Then once you’ve reviewed this roadmap ask for a comprehensive list of features that they have added in the previous 10-12 month period. This will give you a directional gauge as to what you can expect them to deliver.
Patrick will be speaking at ICMI Contact Center Expo. Join him this May 21-24 in Orlando, FL.
Technology Partner Ecosystems
All leading technology companies have some ecosystem program aimed at providing their customers with pre-built integration capabilities to ease effort when merging various technology. It’s worth noting that even if a piece of technology doesn’t come with a pre-built integration they can still be connected, but it will typically require some custom development efforts. It will likely save some time and money if you select a partner with an ecosystem that is large and growing - simply to give you more options and flexibility.
This component should be focused on seeking a technology that already has existing integrations with your current other technologies or near-term integration with other near-term technology considerations. The more tightly integrated all of your technology is, the better your reporting, administration, and access will be. The overarching goal should be to have a single-sign (SSO), centralized admin (as much as possible), and perfectly synchronized data to generate reliable reporting.