Transforming into a digital workplace is no small task.  A partnership to support your transformation requires far more than technical acumen.  There are many components in a digital workplace support partnership, but here are 9 of the most important (and often missing) that I've found.

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1. Business Analysis Expertise

Business analysts are the "bridge" between understanding what the business needs, and understanding what the technology can do. These are individuals who can work alongside your business people, and can help you to re-imagine a future workplace that operates more effectively. And then they can talk to solution experts and developers to give them the information they need to get their jobs done. The best business analysts have deep solution knowledge so they can “connect the dots” between business problems, and how the technology can be the solution.

2. Leadership Advisory Expertise

Oftentimes it is business leadership that is playing the biggest role in holding a project back. Your partner needs to be able to effectively engage with your leadership to help them develop a vision for leading the change. In other words, they need the experience and credibility to be able to lead the leaders.

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3. Solution Expertise

The selected partner should have deep and wide expertise in the appropriate technology solution(s). Ideally, they should have multiple individuals on their team with solution expertise for two reasons: (1) you will want backup resources, and (2) no one person will know everything about the solution. Their own ability to collaborate internally will ultimately benefit you. Solution experts should usually be able to double as trainers (dedicated trainers are rarely as helpful as they need to be, because they don't understand the product or your users well enough). Some solution experts can also double as business analysts (making them more effective in both roles). 

Using a general IT services firm (the one who handles your email servers) for specific digital transformation projects such as an intranet or CRM solution doesn’t usually end well.  Think of it as being about the same as using a handyman to design, build, and do plumbing, electrical and HVAC on a new room you’re adding to your home. The handyman may be great for quick projects, fixes and small upgrades – but you risk leaky plumbing, housefires, sagging rooflines and cracked foundations if you try to get them to handle larger projects.

4. Development Expertise

Solution experts are not the same as developers. And in spite of what the software vendor may have promised, you almost always discover a need to do at least a small amount of development to tweak a solution to fit your needs. Again, the selected partner should have multiple developers whose full-time job is to work on the selected solution and perhaps one other. When a developer splits their time between multiple major applications, they end up not being very good at developing for any of them.

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5. Integration and Migration Expertise

Making different applications talk to each other is imperative (click here to learn more about data integration and why it is important in the digital workplace). And migrating data from legacy applications can be critical to retaining knowledge and driving user adoption. Integration and migration experience is a unique area and requires unique expertise.

6. Application-Specific Support Expertise

When is a user not a user? When they're waiting for IT to fix their application!

Most customer and employee engagement applications are built to be integrated with other applications (different desktop software such as Outlook, database back-ends, email servers, marketing solutions, social platforms, etc). Some of the most frequent break-downs occur when the built-in linkages between these applications are not configured correctly. Make sure your partner can handle these dicey issues for you.

7. Knowledge Transfer

The goal is not to become completely dependent on an outside organization. Work with a partner who has a track record of transferring knowledge to their clients. This can be done through training, creating internal user groups, and involving IT in resolving issues.

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8. Integrity and Chemistry

It should go without saying that your partner won't hire your employees once they get them up to speed. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Document all the expectations in your agreements. And take the time to establish that the chemistry between your teams is solid – you want a partner that will do the right thing even if it isn’t in a document. Your partner team will become a part of your own team so take hiring them as seriously as you take hiring a new employee.

9. Project Management

Coordinating all these roles, particularly when transforming the business, takes an expert.  Your partner should have a project manager that can adapt to different project approaches depending on the situation, and that can help you take first steps into agile agile project management if you’re not using this approach yet. Your project manager should also have the discipline to adhere to standard processes and best practices even when there is pressure to skip them (for example: if the business wants to get started using the new digital solution without first conducting UAT, the PM should hold the project up).

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C5 Insight is here to help you move from business frustration to business transformation.  Contact us to chat about your CRM, intranet, document management or digital workplace needs.