In my many years in the channel, I have seen numerous service providers struggle with onboarding new technologies. You know the reason I believe most providers struggle? Lack of structure.
Service providers are great at advising their clients on how new technology should be implemented, managing the resources of that implementation and getting signoff on the implementation. However, few of them do the same for their own projects. Without a project plan you have no guide, no structure.
There are several steps in evaluating new technologies for your business. Once you have chosen that new technology, service providers should work with the vendor who provides it to put onboarding steps in place. Do you have a project plan that you use to onboard new technologies? No? Well, let me share what I think are some of the important components that should be included in that plan.
Communication. It is hard to communicate too much with a new vendor when you are just getting started with them. You need to get all of the contact information of everyone you may need to communicate with now that you are a partner, not a sales prospect. The salesperson may have been your best friend, but now you need to make new ones. Who is your account manager? Who deals with billing questions? Who and how do you contact support? Get this contact information, and talk to them before you need to talk to them.
Time. Plan enough time for training, enough time for testing and enough time for understanding. Most service providers look for a new solution when they have a new opportunity. This type of timeline rarely allows for enough time to deploy a solution smoothly the first time. Incomplete training and testing will cause incomplete knowledge of the solution which causes incomplete satisfaction with the solution, forever. Don’t handcuff yourself and your vendor by limiting the time you spend learning that new technology.
Follow-Up. When is the last time you set time aside to retrain yourself on a solution that is a core piece of your business? Do you read the release notes of the updates? Do you have a sandbox environment in-house to test the new features? Do you ask your vendors to give technical and sales presentations to your staff to keep them up to date? These are the types of things that keep a vendor partnership active and productive.
Without a plan, no project will run smoothly, even your own. If you treat onboarding a new vendor as a project and build a project plan to keep it on track, you will have the best opportunity for both short, and long term success with your new technology.