When commerce platform initiatives kick-off the discussion naturally turns to commerce platforms, order management solutions, content management, search, and many, many other point solutions. Often the question of who will help integrate the solution is left for last. This is frequently a mistake.

In fact, selecting the right services firm can make or break your project, and therefore your business. As commerce programs that reach across customer touch-points get more complex and risky, the process of selecting a services provider has become increasingly critical to businesses' success or failure. Yesterday's relatively simple eCommerce projects have become today's customer experience, business, and technology transformation programs.

These programs are not simple, and require an investment in time, money, and resources. It is not a matter of just wiring up the commerce platform, but instead a whole set of business processes, systems, and strategies will also be impacted. And these skills and expertise are very difficult to keep on staff, requiring companies to supplement with external services providers. Companies now require a multi-disciplined vendor partner to guide decisions upon which rest millions of dollars of revenue, brand differentiation, customer satisfaction, and careers.

It is no longer a matter of selecting an eCommerce platform and hiring a firm to support systems integration: Today's commerce services firms support a range of problems and questions, providing channel strategy, technology strategy, customer experience design, systems integration, and managed services. And though a growing number of clients will look to commerce accelerators and “starter stores” from commerce platform solution providers, these must be viewed as just a first step in a journey to develop robust, available, high-integrated, and open commerce solutions upon which to grow a multi-channel, agile commerce solution. The services provider you work with will be a close partner on that journey.

Selecting your services provider may be the most important decision you make as an eBusiness leader. My latest report acts as a guide to help you consider the most critical elements throughout that process.