The modern landscape makes solving business problems an exercise in finding the right provider most of the time. In my experience, software consultants and solutions providers come in three types. Some are heavily invested in existing technology and want to use that for every customer. Then, some want to jump on every new technology and use clients as guinea pigs. The third type focuses on the client and the best solution. Once that solution is defined, they decide how to implement it. These are the ones you want for your project. The challenge is figuring out how to weed through the options.
Solving Business Problems Is The Focus
I would say start with the website or proposal. However, you might come across a provider that does not have a website and has not sent you a meaningful proposal. Those are easy to ignore. It is hard to take a technology business seriously that either does not have a website or that has one that looks like it was built by a child a few decades ago. Here are some things a good provider will have on their website. The more of these, the better, and the more details, the better.
- They talk about successful projects and solutions rather than technology stacks.
- There are multiple clients represented, whether across projects or stories.
- The focus is on problems they can solve as opposed to buzzwords.
- Your non-technical friends, family, and coworkers can understand what they do without searching for the meaning of several terms.
- There is a start and finish to the projects they highlight.
While all of the above items are not required, a complete lack of this sort of content should raise warning flags. The alternatives you might see will list a bunch of technology they use (the stack) or provide links to cutting-edge vendors. They likely have the wrong focus when the site looks like an article from a tech news site or program.
Finding That Perfect Match
Once you have whittled down your list of prospective providers to those that actually solve problems, your next step is finding a match. The best providers will talk about solving problems you have faced or need to solve. For example, a vendor that spends a lot of time discussing how to market your business may not be the best if you need to track sales or integrate systems. On the other hand, a vendor that talks about bringing customers to your website may be the perfect fit.
This may make you wonder how to match your problem to their skills. That is a good question and does require you to start by ensuring you have correctly understood and defined it. That is a mistake many companies make. They look for a provider and expect the provider to help define the problem and then provide a solution. While that is an acceptable approach, it will likely be more expensive. You will end up in a situation where you are in that old description of paying a consultant to use your watch to tell you what time it is. They are going to be an essential part of crafting a solution. However, you will want to invest the time in defining your problem to solve and related requirements as much as possible.
A software project can be an expensive process. Think of it like a house or a mansion. You would not go into one of those projects blind or without firm ideas of what to expect. Do the same with your business. Take the time to examine your processes and the pain points you want to reduce or resolve.
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