How to choose the right Implementation PARTNER

Best IT Implementation of the year 2009

The Key to Successful IT Project Management

Rickey's World-Home Automation on Web

Best IT Implementations of the Year 2010: 200 Tech Success Stories

IT implementation partners play a vital role in rolling out an IT project. They're a key part of its success, making it essential that you get the right implementation partner for your work. Unfortunately,this is easier said than done. How can you trust an implementation partner without actually seeing his work? All you see and hear initially is a lot of fancy presentations and marketing hype from partners you've invited in a tender bid. Carefully decipher-ing all that talk and filtering hype from reality is no mean task. You have to assess whether the partner actually understands your business requirements, has sufficient technical expertise to do your work, among a host of other things.

So our story's objective this time is twofold: One is to put down some essential parameters that should be considered while choosing the right implementation partner. Here, we've also taken tips from key CIOs across the industry on what they look for in an implementation partner. Plus, the best way to attract the right implementation partners is to create the right RFP (Request for Proposal).

 

In the second part, we help you identify the right IT implementation partner for your industry and for your business requirements. Here, we've got recommendations from key CIOs and IT heads from across the country on their favorite implementation partners. These have been divided by small, medium, and large enterprises, and are based on an online survey, wherein we asked CIOs to tell us the name of one IT implementation partner who according to them deserves recognition and for which project. Let's start with the first part of how to choose the right implementation partner for your needs.

“Our partner strives to increase the skills of the employees to meet the new challenges in emerging technologies,which helps customers like us to adopt new technology with their support.”-Vijay Gurumurthyi, GATE Global Solutions
 

Have a clear vision
Before you can choose the right implementation partner, it's important to be very clear about your own requirements. What is the business need for which you need an IT solution? And what is the time frame over which this need should be fulfilled? Only when you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve will you be able to convey the same to the implementation partner, or put it down in a RFP when inviting bids from multiple implementation partners.

“Our Implementation partner is very professional, has supported us in all situations,and has worked with us with a lot of transparency.”-Anil Kumar, DGM-IT,The Oriental Insurance Company Ltd
 

Everyone knows that defining a clear business requirement and identifying an IT solution for it is possibly the most difficult task, and we can't blame anybody for it. There are many things you or your team won't know about an IT solution, especially if it's a new implementation. You would have an idea of the business problem, and a rough idea of the IT solution to resolve it e.g. you know that manual processes are hampering productivity and not giving you a clear picture of your costs. You know that an ERP system can resolve the problem, but don't really know what to expect from it,which modules to implement, what would be the process changes, and other nauances.

“Excellent project management and quality delivery is what our implementation partner delivered. Our partner listened to us and was very focused toward resolving our business issues.”-Anil Singh, N R Agarwal Industries Ltd
 

The same argument extends to any other business requirement or IT solution. Most organizations today are pondering over how to save costs due to the slowdown, and looking for technologies to get the best  RoI. Some of the emerging technologies that could make this happen are well-known--cloud computing, virtualization, unified communication, mobility, and so on. But you wouldn't know the nauances of these technologies. A good implementation partner will be able to understand your business problem and give you the right advice on choosing the best solution for it. For this to happen, the partner himself needs to have a clear vision of how to move forward with a deployment, and have relevant experience in that domain. Importance of word of mouth advice Unfortunately, there's no structured process or methodology to choosing the right implementation partner, so everyone ends up creating and following their own processes. Usually, the first step is to ask your peers and friends in the industry for their recommendations. While this Is possibly the easiest method, it has its own pitfalls. For instance, we all remember the horror stories about ERP failures when everybody wanted to jump on the ERP bandwagon just because others were deploying it. People have of course learnt their lessons since then,and the economic slowdown has accentuated that further. Today, people are more careful while evaluating their IT requirements, but it's still convenient to ask your peers for recommendations. While there's nothing wrong with that, it shouldn't be the only deciding criteria,and shouldn't even be the most significant one.

“They brought innovation and worked to arrive at the most optimal solution within all applicable constraints”-Dhiren Savla, CIO, Kuoni Travels
 

Versatility
Should you go with an implementation partner who has expertise in only one area, or should you go for one who has deployed many different types of IT projects? Both have their own merits and demerits. In specific cases where the requirement is very niche,  you'll probably go with an expert. Even other wise, you could go with a partner with expertise in a single area, but then for your other deployments, you would have to continue the hunt for fresh implementation partners. That's where a multi-skilled implementation partner comes in, who can be engaged for a single project, and later as your needs grow, you could continue using the same implementation partner for other projects. This sounds like a good idea, but has one major risk.

What if you decide to terminate the contract with the implementation partner? How many of your projects would be affected? In case of a single expertise implementation partner, your other projects won't be affected.

The other factor to take into consideration is industry expertise. Does an implementation partner have expertise for your industry, or has even done deployments for other industries? This may not matter to you much, unless you're a large enterprise conglomerate. But it does have its benefits in that the partner could share the best practices from other industries that you could leverage.

Finally, the third aspect of versatility is the size of companies that an implementation partner has worked for in the past. If you're a large enterprise, would you risk giving a project to a company who's only worked for smaller enterprises? You might get a cost benefit, but would you get the desired quality of output? But some-body who's worked for organizations of different sizes would certainly make a difference.

Technical Expertise
This is perhaps the most difficult parameter to judge when selecting an implementation partner for a new deployment. How do you determine whether an implementation partner will understand your business requirements? How will you judge his technical competency? What about the support infrastructure of the implementation partner? Will you get proper support after the project has been deployed? How will you determine the quality of work of the implementation partner? Then of course,you need to judge whether the price being quoted by the implementation partner justifies the work involved. Finally of course, there's the worry of ensuring project deployment within the predefined timelines. It's a well known fact that project delays lead to significant financial losses. In fact, in many large deployment, the partner cost is higher than the actual cost of hardware and software licenses, especially when projects get delayed.

Hand-picked Favorites of CIOs

 

We asked CIOs of mid to large enterprises in an online survey about who were their favorite IT implementation partners and for what kind of IT project

 

What could be a better way to find good implementation partners than to ask those who've experienced their work? That's why, we approached CIOs and IT decision makers of various organizations across the country to tell us about IT implementation partners who according to them deserve recognition. The questions were asked in an on-line survey.

 

We asked CIOs to name one implementation partner who according to them deserves recognition. This was an unprompted question, so they were free to give any name they wanted to. We then went on to ask their reason for nomination, the best project type and total number of projects that the partner had deployed for the respondent. Next, we asked them to rate their implementation partner on a scale of1 to 10 on quality of deployment, cost effectiveness, support, technical competence, ability to understand business requirements, and time management. The respondents were free to nominate more than one implementation partner, but every entry had to be filled up in a separate online form

Here, we present the implementation partners that received multiple nominations. We've segmented the responses into two parts-partners recommended by CIOs of large(1000 Cr+ turnover) and mid-sized (250-100Crore) organizations. The rest have been presented in a table after these write-ups. After getting the nominations, we first eliminated all invalid or incomplete entries. Companies who had nominated themselves were considered invalid, as self-nomination was not allowed. We also didn't consider entries for partners who were only active abroad.

IT IMPLEMENTATION PARTNERS – LARGE ENTERPRISES

We received nominations from 30 CIOs of large enterprises, having 1000 Cr+ turnover. Out of these,there were 14 unique IT Implementation partners. In all cases, CIOs placed a great deal of trust in their implementation partners, and were even willing to do further business with them. We've considered three here, because they've received more than 3 nominations for a variety of projects. These3 implementation partners don't need any introduction for anybody-IBM, Wipro, and HP. They've all carved out a niche for themselves in this space.
 

There's no straight answer to all of these questions. One would be to ask the partner to provide customer references. Second, you should talk to the team that the partner intends to depute for your work. In one instance where we were involved in evaluating a solution, we found that the marketing head was answering all our queries very smoothly, but the technical head was not very clear of our requirements and was thereby giving irrelevant answers.  Third, you should see the partner's support infrastructure, which would become important once the project has been rolled out.

Trust
It's essential to establish a level of trust when working with an implementation partner. This will only come after you start working with the implementation partner. Only after that would you know whether to continue working with the implementation partner in the future, or even recommend your partner's work to your peers. The first stepping stone to establishing trust is transparency. Has the implementation partner deployed complex projects on time and within the desired costs? Ask for the timelines that the partner followed for it to give you a clear picture into the same.

Open Source vs. Commercial?
Does it matter when choosing a partner?You  might have decided to deploy an open source solution for your problem or vice versa. But does that mean you'll only invite bids from implementation partners who're experts in either open source or commercial solutions? What if there's a partner who can give you an equally cost effective solution on the other platform? Today, it doesn't matter whether you choose an opensource or commercial solution, so long as it fulfills your business requirements and is cost effective.

Processes are important
If an implementation partner has done deployments similar to the one you're asking for, then ask for the methodology they followed for the same. A good partner should have well-documented processes for solutions they've already deployed in the past.

Ability to work under constraints A true implementation partner will work with you in ensuring that the implementation happens no matter what the constraints. There's no straight way to check this. One way is to do reference checks by talking to his customers.

How insightful is your partner?
If you're thirsty, you want water,not milk. Similarly, sometimes the solution to a problem could be very simple. Is your implementation partner insightful enough to catch that and suggest an optimal solution instead of presenting a complex solution that would take ages to deploy?

Treat each other as partners Finally, while this may sound like a cliched statement, but once you've decided to go with an implementation partner, then treat him as a partner,and not a vendor. Its importance can'tbe stressed enough.

A true partner will go to all lengths to ensure that your implementation is completed within pre-defined time lines and cost. They will involve the necessary people in their team, including senior management if it comes to that, to ensure that your implementation goes smoothly. Your costs are their costs if your implementation partner truly works like a partner.

IBM
With nominations from 7 large enterprise CIOs,IBM was definitely the most popular implementation partner in our survey

IBM was able to grab the maximum number of nominations from large enterprise CIOs. In our survey, the global giant has been nominated for its exemplary work in various IT Infrastructure and ERP projects. IBM has a stronghold amongst large manufacturing companies, because most of the nominations were from there. Plus, IBM has also received accolades from the Pharma sector. IBM was nominated by these CIOs for its cost effectiveness, strict adherence to project timelines, and ability to handle complex projects. Moreover, IBM enjoys a loyal following amongst these organizations, because on an average, it has done more than two projects for each of the companies it received nomination from.

Nominations received:7
Recognized for projects on: ERP, IT Infrastructure
Nominating industries: Manufacturing, Real Estate, Utilities, FMCG
 

 

Wipro
This versatile Indian MNC enjoys an equal degree of faith amongst most industries, with CIOs even willing to recommend its name to their peers

This Indian MNC player received the maximum nominations for data center related projects. Wipro received accolades for delivering end-to-end solutions, building a complex LEED certified Green Data centre that saves thousands of tonnes of carbon footprint, shifting a datacenter, and even building a complete solution for the distribution business of a utility company.

Process driven methodologies, reliable, trustworthy, cost effective, and having domain expertise were some adjectives used by CIOs who nominated Wipro.

As far as ratings go, Wipro was rated highly by all four CIOs for their projects. Where it might need focus in is improving its understanding of business requirements. Its highest strength seems to be cost-effectiveness

On an average, The CIOs who recommended Wipro have worked with the partner for 5 to 10 projects. All CIOs who nominated Wipro have a great deal of trust in the company, and were more than willing to recommend Wipro to their peers in other industries. . 

Nominations received: 4
Recognized for projects on: IT Infrastructure, Green IT Nominating industries: Telecom, advtg &comm, BFSI, Utilities
 

 

HP
This global giant enjoys a high-degree of trust amongst the customers it's worked for. Those who nominated HP have already worked with the company on 5 or more projects

Whether it's end-to-end outsourcing of managing a core banking solution, or designing, implementing, and testing a multi-geography DR solution, or whether it's deploying an ERP solution, CIOs seem to be vouching for HP. CIOs have recommended HP for everything from right-sizing their servers to delivering before time, thereby giving the company ample time to test their implementation. HP was rated 8/10 on average by all three of its customers, whether it was for adherence to project timelines,quality of delivery, cost effectiveness, back-end support,technical competency, or the ability to understand business requirements.

HP enjoys a high degree of trust amongst its customers,because it has done 5-10 projects on an average for all three customers it was nominated by. Moreover, they were even ready to give further business to HP, which clearly shows a high-degree of trust in this implementation partner.

Nominations received: 3
Recognized for projects on: IT Infrastructure, ERP Nominating industries: BFSI, Hospitality
 

Anil Chopra and Anindya Roy

  • Follow PCQuest on
  • become a fan on
  • Stay updated via
  • RSS

LEAVE A REPLY

Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail address

Post Comment

Survey Box

Now that Microsoft has finally discontinued support for Windows XP, which OS are you likely to upgrade to?

Send this article by email

X