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8 Responses to “8 Things to Consider when Looking at ECM Consultants” July 28, 2009

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Enterprise Content Management.
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With reference to the blog “8 Things to Consider when Looking at ECM Consultants” by John Klein on Digital Landfill.

On the outset, John Klein’s blog lists out the right 8 points to consider when looking at ECM Consultants.  John Klein also comes out as someone with good experience and understanding of ECM. My reservations are not against the validity of John Klein’s write up. My reservations are purely against the effectiveness of considering these when deciding on an ECM Consultant.  Marked in blue are my humble add-ons to them:

1.         Experience

You certainly don’t want your chosen provider to “cut their teeth” on your application.  Thoroughly researching the four points below will provide you “peace of mind” as you embark on your project.

  • Experience in your industry or vertical market?
    • No matter how much experience you may have in the industry, the culture, de facto practice and regulatory requirements can render an experienced vendor toothless if they don’t have regional experience.
  • Experience with your specific issue(s) or pain point(s)?
    • It will not be possible for your new vendor to be experienced with your ‘specific’ issues. They may be experienced with the general pain points of your industry, but specific can be asking too much. You may instead want to explore their track record in resolving complex and critical issues.
  • Experience with your specific IT technology/product set(s) such as database and operating system
    • If you hadn’t thought of it yourself and John needed to enlighten you, its time you looked at a new career path.
  • Multiple references – successful with implementations of similar size and scope?
    • Advised, but most clients do not disclose nor allow vendors to disclose any information about the project. All you get is a reference email or letter. The risk here is that if the vendor has good ‘relationships’ you may find a respectable reference for a minor project. We’re in a world of hyper-inflated marketing lingo.

2.         Proven methodologies

It is not uncommon to ask to see representative examples of previous project or communication plans. Additionally, your company has standards and methodologies that have been critical to your success.  Will your outsource partner incorporate the good things that you typically like to include that have made previous endeavors successful in the past?  Be sure to ask about:

  • Project charter – initiation and/or creation of project
  • Project plan – Scheduling, resources and commitments
  • Project status update – recurring, dependable communication plan
  • Change order – predefined process to manage scope creep
  • Mutual Sign-off upon successful project completion

All projects have always worked on similar methodologies. It is now expected default. Ensuring this is practiced is more critical.

3.         Ability to deliver the proposed scope on time/on budget

Unfortunately too many consultants come in and identify the problem, present a solution, but don’t stay until completion or finish the job.  As best as possible, clearly identify costs up front – both initial and on-going.

Isn’t this an outcome of not considering the right ECM Consultant? No matter how much you accommodate costs, if the ECM Consultant is not up to the mark, deliverable will go for a toss!

4.         Stability and financial strength

Stability and financial strength are even more crucial with a specialized solution.  Also consider whether your chosen provider would be willing and able to help you become self sufficient once the project has been completed?  Please explore the following:

  • Will the chosen provider be around for the long term to support your solution or application?
  • Will they offer a Service Level Agreement with Multiple support options (standard support? after hours support?)
  • Will they provide end user and administrator training?
  • Will they extend the current application (additional features/functionality) or create an entirely new application if/when requirements change?
  • Has their staff been employed by the company for some time?
  • Do they cross train so that more than one employee is familiar with your solution?

Once again, these are basics of any Information Technology Project. If you are reading this and again John needed to enlighten you, then even the one who employed you must choose a new career path!

5.         Industry Reputation

A good reputation within your industry or vertical market gives you confidence that your chosen provider better understands the issues you are facing.

  • Have they won industry awards?
  • Do they participate at industry conferences?
  • Are they active in the online community?

Not all award winning vendors are active in your region.  Industry conferences are attended by most leading vendors, but the representation may be at high level and the knowledge dissipated at these conferences need not trickle down the hierarchy quick enough. Being active on the Online Community is an unfair criterion. Are you interested in the vendor organization’s presence, which is usually part of the marketing strategy and also not completely absorbed in all regions.

6.         Reputation and Relationship with Software Manufacturer

Assuming that your chosen provider is not the software manufacturer, are they “in the trenches” with the manufacturer?  Do they participate in alpha or beta testing of new product releases?  Do they know the short and long term product roadmap?  Find out the following:

  • Is the staff certified?
  • Are the certifications current?
  • Do they have relationships at various levels with the manufacturer (executive? product management? product development?)
  • Are they a member of a Partner Advisory Council?

Helps if you are a Fortune 500 to consider  the depth of relationship with the software manufacturer. Less prestigious organizations or smaller markets may not always get special consideration at the level of the manufacturer. Also, the vendor may be part of the Partner Advisory Council, but how effective are their regional offices. Hence, while staff certifications can be something one may demand, other factors can only be requested for and cannot be made mandatory or may even have to be ignored and finally rely on lady luck  🙂

7.         Comprehensive Documentation

Ask for representative examples to make sure the documentation will suffice and truly be a valuable resource when issues arise.  Will the documentation that is provided at the end of the project detail your specific solution?  When shown previous examples ask to be pointed to solution specific portions of the documentation.  Watch out for “boiler-plate” style examples.

The “boiler-plate” style example is brilliant.  But, what if the vendor is bound by Non Disclosure Agreements and the documentation is the property of the previous client? In fact, you may actually look at securing your documentation by actually having an NDA yourself. The same review as No. 2 applies here.

8.         Good “fit” for your organization?

This is often unnecessarily overlooked.  Are the people that you are talking to in a “pre-sales” capacity the same staff that will be assigned to your project?  If not, ask to meet the project team.  An area that is often overlooked is the culture compatibility with your own organization.  This is very important if you desire to develop a long term, lasting partnership.

Totally, totally, totally agree with this!!!

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Comments»

1. Dan Longo - July 29, 2009

Sanooj, a comment on point 1. In New York State, we had access to the consultants used by the NY State Archives grant recipients. This was at least a starting point in choosing a consultant,and provided that ‘regional’ experience that you refer to. This also saved us travel and hotel expenses, and resulted in more frequent in-person contact.

sanoojk - July 29, 2009

Indeed Dan. I am not discounting John’s points at all here. But I believe the local flavor is critical when you are preparing your ECM feast.


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