Once financial and human capital elements are addressed, clients need to consider alignment with their own needs. To maintain a successful relationship, firms and suppliers should be on the same page regarding:
• Methodology/Knowledge Management: Companies should look at methodology as a library of best practices that can be used to provide consistent training for services providers' own internal consultants and as a means of achieving high productivity, consistency, and quality on client engagements. In best cases, consulting firms require and/or compensate consultants for depositing lessons learned into the company methodology or knowledge management system. This practice ensures that the methodology is living and constantly being refined.
• The Ability to Coach and Transfer Knowledge: The ability to transfer competency (e.g., improved development processes) to clients is an important source of value in integration/outsourcing relationships. In the modern world of Agile and software-as-a-service (SaaS), for example, knowledge transfer is still important, if not more so. Many corporate development shops, moving to more Agile-like methodologies, will require coaching to make the engagement work and to prepare internal staff to use a new approach to software development. On the SaaS or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) front, companies have similar requirements since they need to learn how to integrate these services and platforms into their existing IT organization. Make sure that you understand how your vendors achieve the required knowledge transfer and seek references on their knowledge transfer capability.
• Functional Breadth/Depth: Integrators and outsourcers have varying degrees of expertise in their functional offerings. Functional offerings include horizontal capabilities, such as data center outsourcing and desktop asset management. The breadth of functional offerings is significant in large-scale engagements, like full-service outsourcing. In more cases today, the depth of the functional expertise will be a primary consideration. For example, you may be using a vendor such as ThoughtWorks for Agile application development. In this case, you would only care about the depth of its capability in this area and not about its breadth of offerings across the IT stack.
• Vertical Breadth/Depth: Deep vertical business expertise and technology capability is required to help clients optimize or innovate. Customers should evaluate a vendor's vertical capability not just by looking at revenue per vertical segment but by also looking at the credentials of the vendor's vertical consultants/experts and the customer references.
• Scalability: Companies must make sure that a prospective vendor is sufficiently large (or small) to accommodate their project. If the largest similar project the vendor has dealt with before is significantly smaller than the one you are considering, you need reassurance that the vendor can step up in terms of staff, infrastructure, and process. Conversely, if your project is much smaller than the vendor's norm, this is also a risk. Clients that fall into the "small fish in a large pond" category rarely receive sufficient management attention.
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