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How to Tell If You Have the Wrong Digital Partner

By Lisa Carolan

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You needed to find a digital partner to help get ahead of the digital disruption that is occurring in your industry. You read that 84% of companies fail at their digital transformation efforts, so you make sure to invest the time and do the research to find the right partner.

Now you find yourself half-way through your project and the end isn’t as clear as you thought it would be. Or you expected your new systems to launch by now, but your partner has missed the date more times than you can count. Or perhaps you’ve launched, but you haven’t seen the promised results yet.

 Who Recommends Them and Why

It’s easy to believe that recommendations equal competence. But believe it or not, software vendors and other technology providers will frequently recommend digital agencies and partners for reasons other than pure competence. Sometimes these reasons will be completely opaque to you.

At times vendors recommend agencies simply because of their size, with the belief that they can handle any client. Other times they have provided business to the technology platform and your lead is some form of payback. Or the agency was a large sponsor at the platform’s last conference.

Naturally, we should still pay attention to recommendations. Negative reviews, for example, tend to be reliable. A good digital partner should receive a recommendation because they did stellar work for the company and have results to show. The work and results are the metrics to dig into.

 

Counting What Counts

It’s often been said that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. One way to tell if your digital partner is aligned with your corporate vision and goals is to see if they are measuring the same things that you are. Are their reports products that you can turn around and use internally? Or do you leave status updates without any sense of what they are working to improve?

When an agency is aligned with you they understand your culture, goals, and operations. They can speak your own internal language and know what’s important to you. Their reports and metrics should reflect your goals. On the other hand, the use of a lot of buzzwords or jargon might be hiding clear communication and accountability.

 

Run like a Swiss Watch... or Not

External events affect us all. Some are small, like people falling ill. Some are larger, like when strategies change because of competitive moves or investments. All of these can cause deadlines to slip.

The better agencies communicate changes and slips as far in advance as they can, and understand the underlying reasons and root causes for these project changes. They will map out contingencies and explain to you how changes to products or timelines today will have an impact on deliverables and forecasts later in the month or quarter.

But be on the lookout for small deadlines that keep slipping with little to no explanation or examination. Good agencies will build a little buffer into their timelines and forecasts, as they understand that there are unforeseen events ahead. Other agencies stretch to meet client timelines and goals and aren’t making space for everyday disruptions.

 

The Ever-Changing Team

Transitions are always a natural part of work. Employees get promoted, they move on to new challenges, or they follow partners out of state. None of these things should be alarming, they are perfectly natural.

However, a constantly changing team is a sign of a partner that has a difficult time managing their human resources. Having to constantly deal with an influx of new team members invariably slow a project down.

Similarly, be cautious if you find yourself talking to senior partners during the early days, then get assigned a junior AM or dev team. Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. You don’t want your mission critical project to be the training ground for your client’s farm team.

In the end, the right digital partner can be a tremendous asset. Should you find yourself wondering how you got in the situation you are, or fearing the future of your project, it might make sense to reevaluate your business partner relationships and determine how to improve your situation.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Digital Disruption

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