Show Your Work from Online Fun
If your business is a consumer of technology services, whether regular or occasional, you've probably researched the case studies and demos of the solutions that your services provider has implemented for other clients. If these haven't been readily available, you've probably asked to see examples of solutions they've created for companies that are like your own, and if the services provider can't provide at least a screenshot or tell the story of a relevant solution, you may have started evaluating other vendors.
These are the most common questions I hear from Sales: "Where have we done [x] before? What have we done for the [x] industry?" Prospects and existing clients want us to show our work, and to provide evidence that we have the necessary experience to take on their project - whether it's via case studies, testimonials, or demos.
What's surprising to me is that in all my years of technical presales, I’ve rarely heard a prospect ask for a demo of my own company’s collaboration tools and systems. There are plenty of resources online for what to ask a tech services provider - mostly around what level of support they provide, what security and data recovery plans they have in place to protect your data, and whether they serve similar clients. But how your tech services provider runs its own business may be even more significant to your project's success than the work they've done for others like you.
So if you're evaluating a technology services firm, or already engaged with one, here are some questions you may want to ask:
- What tools do your teams use to collaborate? What percentage of your staff uses them?
- What tools do you use to collaborate with your clients and partners?
- What systems do you use to run the business? - for example, Accounting, Sales, HR, Recruiting. (They probably have a time tracking and invoicing system that works well, same for their customer relationship database and customer support, but it's likely they have focused less on the systems that don't directly affect the bottom line)
- Are your most important systems integrated? (Just like you, they may be struggling with multiple systems of record, where account and project data is duplicated across systems.)
- What percentage of your business runs in the Cloud?
- Do you have a technology roadmap for your business? (& can I see it?)
- Do all employees have standard virus protection installed on their devices?
- How often do you upgrade employees' hardware?
- What's your Disaster Recovery Plan? (& can I see it?)
- What kind of workflow automation have you implemented to manage your own processes, for example Expenses, Onboarding, Paid Time Off Requests, etc? How well are they adopted?
- How do you manage and track your IP?
- What sort of processes and technology have you implemented to support your mobile workforce?
- How is the time and expense entry experience for your Delivery staff, especially on a mobile device?
If the vendor you're evaluating gives you the old "cobbler's kids have no shoes" excuse, (i.e. they're so focused on their clients that they de-prioritize their own systems) or any combination of that plus "we're upgrading our systems now" or "we can't show you that due to client confidentiality," you may want to expand your search.
Special thanks to @jfj1997 who contributed questions to this list.