Every time we see another headline, we are prompted to check, could that be us? Whether its platform hacks, data breaches with ICO implications, projects that fail, projects with budget or time overruns, parties falling out, the Board or key stakeholders coming under scrutiny, there are many risks to mitigate. The fact remains, you can't know what you can't know at the beginning of a technology project, but here is our take on some key things that should help to set projects on a course to success.

1) Know your provider

Establishing who they are (as people and an organisation), their expertise and how they plan to work with you are all key components along with the usual due diligence checks. There are some simple checks that can be helpful gauges. How quickly do they call or email you back when you reach out? If they're not responsive in a sales process when they're looking to secure your business, they're unlikely to be responsive in the delivery and support of your solution. Finding out what the team you will be working with are they like as people and what's important to them can be very helpful. Treating the appointment process in the same way as you would an interview of an employee can be a useful approach. Do their vision and values align with yours? Culturally, will the organisations and individuals involved be 'a good fit'? Do they have experience of working with similar organisations to know what common requirements, challenges and dynamics might be encountered? Always check out what their clients have to say about them, and make sure to check with a couple, considering there are always different dynamics at play!

2) Know what you want from your provider

If you are looking for a particular piece of technology that can help to narrow the field in your decision-making process, but it can also eliminate solutions that might actually prove more appropriate. We always advise organisations to focus on the problem or challenge they are trying to overcome rather than determining what form the solution needs to take. Sometimes, presenting a provider with the problem or challenge, can enable them to approach it with fresh perspective and new ideas, whereas dictating a solution can result in a short-sighted approach. The proposed solutions coming back to you may actually provide greater value than anticipated.

3) Know how you want to work with your provider

Do you want a technology vendor who will simply supply and support a product or are you looking for more? Having a partner who will proactively collaborate with you to ensure that you are achieving more together than you would apart, can be really valuable. Where your provider offers long-term involvement, contributing insight and value-add consultancy to review your challenges and achievements ongoingly, there is a commitment to mutual success that means you are more likely to realise and where possible exceed your objectives and goals. This approach also tends to ensure that you won't be having to invest time and resource in tendering for a new provider any time soon!

4) Know what's important

Ensuring that all of your stakeholders (internal and external where you have members and key audience groups) have had their say around what the challenges they face and what the requirements of their role/relationship with your organisation mean for any potential project is critical to success. Asking good questions is fundamental to gaining the insight you need. Often responses can comprise of an unwieldy ream that benefits from prioritising by MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won't have). Being clear on what's important and what's achievable with your defined budget will be critical to achieving the desired outcome. It's best to be transparent with budgets to potential providers so that they appreciate the parameters and scale they need to work to.

5) Keep an eye on the future

It can happen that solving todays problem creates tomorrows crisis. Keeping an eye on the future is really important when making decisions around technology. Whilst 'cutting edge' may prove to be a fad, being on the back-foot is not helpful either. Simple things to bear in mind are your providers approach to; security (what standards do they meet, how often do they patch their product and platforms etc), their road map for ongoing development (introducing features and functionality as marketplace needs evolve etc) and how flexible they can be in terms of being able to accommodate your 'maybes' and curve ball scenarios? Knowing how well they 'play with others' is also helpful to know, as undoubtedly there will be requirements to pull third party technologies in and integrate at some point in the future.

If you'd like to find out more about our approach or would like to discuss your challenge with us please email talktous@netxtra.net or call 01787 319393, we'd love to hear from you.