Posts Tagged ‘Maintenance’

4 tips for selecting the right consultant

by Brian Beedle on August 16, 2010

The vendor selection process can be an arduous, time consuming, and stressful task.  Receiving quotes that run the gambit of the budgetary spectrum, deciding which product will give your company the biggest bang for the buck and wondering if saving a dollar or two is really worth the frustration of finding the “right partner”.  Every Project Manager has dealt with these issues, but keeping in mind the following points may provide some clarity and assist with narrowing the decision-making process when seeking a value-added business partner.

  1. Prepare a well defined project scope
    • Create a list of requirements. Ensure all aspects of the project are being captured.  Alignment and agreement within the organization must occur first and foremost.
    • Project Scope must outline all roles and responsibilities.
    • Establish all high level deliverable dates and the associated milestones for the project.
    • Sign-off from the Executive sponsor of the project must occur at this stage.
  2. Gather a list of recommended vendors and interview each. It is critical that the following points are addressed during the interview process to ensure that the vendor(s) have the resources available and the knowledge to deliver a final product that aligns with the project scope.
    • It is important to determine the level of experience that the consulting team exhibits.
    • Request resumes for the consultants on staff.
    • Inquire as to the specific projects these consultants have worked to qualify the expertise that exists.
      • Do they have relevant industry experience?
      • Speak to them about a “proven approach” to a similar project and how they were successful in delivering in a timely manner.
      • How many dedicated and part-time resources are available?
    • What involvement (if any) is the customer expected to contribute?
      • This is key in determining not only the resources that your organization will need to dedicate, but will also have an impact on the billable hours being allocated for the project.
      • Keep in mind, having an internal resource dedicated to the project is a great way to leverage the “hands-on” experience as a training mechanism.  In addition, these employee costs can be capitalized, reducing the expense budget.
    • Does the vendor’s Project Lead have a Business or Finance understanding or does this person strictly possess a technical background? Depending on the direct involvement of the business users, this is an important issue that needs to be considered.
    • Have a thorough understanding of how your organization is going to be billed.
      • Understand how your organization is going to be billed and at what milestones.
      • What is considered as reimbursable expenses at what percentage is this “capped”?
    • Request three business references in which the vendor has successfully implemented a similar product.  It is acceptable to ask for examples, or a letter of recommendation from former or current clients.
  3. Depending on the result of the interview stage, make a request of the vendor to develop a proof of concept. Compare this document to the original project scope
    • Does the Proof of Concept support the Project Scope and required end result defined by your organization?  Ensure that all key deliverables are being met.
    • Ensure that the timelines seem reasonable. Do they align with the deliverable dates of your organization?
    • Don’t hesitate to challenge the methodology or the approach being used by the prospective vendor.
    • Compare the approaches of the different vendors – It is important to keep in mind that you are the subject matter expert, push back on what does not seem reasonable.
  4. Negotiation
    • The lowest price does not always constitute the best solution. However, staying within an allocated budget is important. Do what is fiscally responsible for your organization; do not sacrifice quality or functionality just because a vendor comes in with a significantly lower price.  It is important to deliver a product that is going to meet the expectation of the sponsors.
    • It is important to understand what level of post-implementation support, training, and maintenance is included. This can be used as a key negotiation point.

These high-level items touch on a number of areas that should be considered during the vendor selection process.  Of course, there are a lot of other aspects that may need to be considered for your organization which go beyond the areas addressed here. Be resourceful. Don’t hurry off to start a project without doing your due diligence by investigating and selecting a firm that fits your needs. The results of a good implementation can change the way a business functions, the remnants of an implementation that is not successful can have even longer effects

Branding – Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

by Laura Lowell on October 6, 2009

brand consistencyJust as in the world of Real Estate it is all about “location, location, location”; in the world of marketing it is all about “consistency, consistency, consistency”.

In conjunction with a sound brand strategy, you need a clear and concise message that resonates with your customers. These messages need to be integrated across your brand and into every customer touch point.  Now, you don’t need to use the same words over and over. However, each communication needs to reinforce the key messages that have been developed to support the brand.  It is a case where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – when the brand is consistently conveyed across multiple touch points, the customer is left with a clear understanding of what the company, product, service, or solution is and how it solves their problem. Simply put, they know what your brand is about.

Unfortunately, as marketers we often get bored with the messages we’ve developed.  We’ve spent hours fine-tuning them and testing them.  Finally, our campaigns launch and the messages are out there, but by that time they feel old and stale to us.  There is a difference between a “fresh” message (with unique language, a clever play on words, a connection to a current event) and a “different” message (not aligned with strategy, not related to existing messages, different for the sake of being different).  Research shows that it takes anywhere from five to nine impressions for an individual to actually internalize a marketing message.  That means they need to see it over and over again.  Not the same words, but the same idea supported by the same brand.

For example, an article in a trade publication mentions the company and their new product; the customer sees an online banner ad, they click on it, and get to a landing page with a compelling offer; they do a Google search to see what else comes up and there is a link to your latest white paper; at an industry tradeshow the company has a booth and is hosting a panel discussion…and the story continues.  With consistent use of key messages across multiple touch-points your customers comes away with the sense that your company is worth their consideration.

Now you have a place to start engaging and driving purchase decisions.  This model holds true for consumer and business marketing.  People are people, whether they are buying high-end mission-critical software or a new plasma HDTV for their living room.  They have a problem.  Through your consistent messages, you have convinced them to consider your product or service as they evaluate their options.  You still have to convince them that your product or solution is really the only one that really addresses all their needs – from technical specifications to user support, maintenance and financing (again, these apply to consumer and business purchases.)

Again, consistency is key.  Your customers need to see and feel that your company is honest and trustworthy.  If there is a disconnect between what you say and what they experience, you will lose the sale, and worse, probably the customer.  So, while consistency in messaging is important…consistency in execution is critical, too.  Both pieces of this puzzle need to be addressed in order for the whole thing to work.  If you only focus on the messaging, then your experience will fall flat.  If you don’t explain your differences and benefits, then you won’t get the chance to display your stellar experience.  No matter how you look at it, consistency is the key to growing you brand and your business

There’s treasure everywhere, We just need to look

by Robert Driscoll on June 18, 2009

therestreasureeverywhere
There’s Treasure Everywhere, We Just Need To Look.

Too often we try to get our customers to buy in to the latest and greatest applications and tools to help them address a concern they have or eliminate current or future issues. The most difficult sales are when one tries to get one’s customers to change and get out of their perceived comfort zone. At times, technology can be overwhelming and confusing. Sometimes it is best to bring things that are in your and your customer’s “background” to the “forefront”. Solutions for helping your customer are sometimes right in front of you.

For example, walk in to your office and look at how many desktops, laptops, printers, phones, etc…there are. Then think about all the IT assets you don’t see that exist within your organization such as PBX’s, routers, switches, servers and so forth. Stop and think for a moment who in your company actually knows what IT equipment exists… think about who knows about the maintenance service contracts associated with this equipment… think about what is sitting idle and what can be reallocated instead of buying new.

Now think about your customers. Most of your customers will claim they have a handle on it. Unfortunately, according to a recent Gartner report this month, many enterprises fail to properly manage and track their IT assets. If companies implemented a proper IT asset management (ITAM) program according to Gartner, they could, “reduce the cost per asset by 30% in the first year, and between 5% and 10% a year for the next five years…” This is bad news for companies who are blind to what IT assets they own, but a great conversation to have with your customers to help them implement a program to track their assets from procurement to end-of-life. Here’s the good news… with ITAM, we’ve just begun to scratch the surface. Imagine how many additional conversations about your customers other strategic systems can be opened up – like accounts payable/receivable, ERP, purchasing, IT service desk and so forth as they are all tied to the procurement and use of these IT assets. What started off as a conversation about one thing has now lead to multiple opportunities!

It is amazing how blind we are to so many things around us that we can turn in to opportunities. We just need to slow down and look around every now and then… which brings me back to where I started from… There’s treasure everywhere, we just need to look.