Separate Agency Hype From Reality: Evaluate Service Providers’ Technical Competencies
“Often, my IT group isn’t even aware of what application development and implementation is being outsourced. Eventually, this creates a big problem for us …We have to clean up a lot of messes.” (North American manufacturing organization)
“Our marketing group paid an agency $250,000 to launch an app and didn’t tell IT. There was no QA done, the agency had no idea how to measure satisfaction, and the app was unstable. The app had just a 2.5 star rating in the iOS app store, and eventually marketing had to kill the app because it just wasn’t working.” (Fortune 500 company)
Do any of these anecdotes sound familiar? More often than not, we talk with organizations where the business uses agency partners to work around IT. But IT pros need to be marketing’s eyes and ears when it comes to evaluating a service provider’s technology expertise. We recommend asking some of the following questions:
- What’s your mix of offerings? Vendors come in all shapes and sizes: marketing/ad agencies, creative design agencies, SIs, and consultants. When it comes to digital experience, these vendors are converging. It’s not about which vendor is “best,” but rather which service provider has the right mix of skills for your initiative. Are you looking to launch an innovative campaign to strengthen your brand messaging? You probably want a marketing/ad agency with strong creative skills. Are you looking to implement a killer mobile app? You want an agency strong in technical and design skills. Do you need a thought leader to help you revamp your omnichannel experience, helping create an overall strategy and implement a new website and mobile app? You need a partner strong in consulting, design, and technical skills.
- Who are your customers? Digital experience service providers tend to promise the world. When you ask them their mix of offerings, chances are high that they will say they do everything. But rarely have we found that service providers can offer deep skills in all four areas. Dive deep into customer references and work to determine which offerings the vendor is most skilled at.
- Who are your technology vendor partners? Many organizations run into customization issues because they implemented technology solutions that did not satisfy requirements. Others have problems because a third party implemented a solution that did not integrate well with their existing technology stack. Dig into your service provider’s experience with leading technology vendors — whether through formal partnerships or extensive practice areas. Many service providers claim to be vendor-agnostic, so look at their practice areas and past work — after all, it’s about the quality of the work, not the number of partners .
- How deep is your application development expertise? We hear that many agencies aren’t up to speed on their technical skills. Ask questions that probe beyond just technology vendor partners. Ask questions about implementation and development expertise, like: How will they support agile and lean methodologies? What are their testing capabilities (e.g. device-specific testing , testing automation)? Do they have platforms based on commercially-based solutions that will make integration easier? These are just a few sample questions, but they should give you a starting place to think about the types of questions to ask your potential service providers.
Our recently published report on the digital experience service provider space provides more questions that will help probe whether or not your service providers are the right fit for your organizations. Do you have a digital experience service provider success story? Horror story? We’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below.