Should you use external help to select your customer experience platform?

One of my favourite parts of the job is consulting with clients when they are in the research phase of selecting a new technology platform for their transformation programme. At Mando, we’re in the fortunate position of not being wedded to one particular technology and, therefore, often get asked for an opinion.

It’s a satisfying feeling being the one with the practical experience and not the one fearing buyer’s remorse, and the real satisfaction comes when you provide valuable insight which the client may not have known, had we not been consulted.

People are sometimes reluctant to bring in external help because, well, how hard can it be? You know your own business, you can articulate requirements, and you can orchestrate an RFP process.

The challenge is though, that the standard line of questioning typically goes something like this:

'Can your platform meet this requirement?'

To which the answer s almost always ‘yes’. Given enough time and money any platform can meet most requirements. After all, platforms are typically built to be extended and customised, so stopping there literally provides no value whatsoever. Which is why you’ll probably next ask…

'How will your platform meet the requirement?'

Of course, the vendors know their platforms and are pretty well placed to offer up a solution. That said, how often do vendors implement their own technology? Very rarely actually. Almost all of the implementations are performed by partners, so even if you get an answer which provides the best solution, you’re still missing one vital piece of information…

'How much will it cost to meet this requirement?'

Beware of the term ‘out of the box’. Whilst vendors rightly claim that many features are out of the box, any implementation partner worth their salt will still want to define the requirement, specify it, and test it. So, even if a required feature is out of the box, it will ultimately carry a cost. I’ve seen several RFP’s where clients have asked vendors to answer the question…

'How much will it cost to implement?'

They never do. In fact, they can’t, because that’s up to the implementation partner. If you have an implementation partner involved in the selection process, they can at least anecdotally answer this question and provide that important perspective.

But even if you think you’ve nailed the line of the questioning and know the answers you need to seek out, there’s further value an implementation partner can add.

Providing early ROI

If you’re a large enterprise, then by the time you’ve incorporated licences, infrastructure, implementation, support and internal effort and costs, your total cost of ownership over a 3-5 year period is likely to be in the millions of pounds.

Believe it or not, the first opportunity to deliver ROI is in the tailoring of the licence deal. An implementation partner with real world experience of implementing the technology will be able to provide a lens on which elements of the deal can be configured. We work with the vendor to discuss the finer details of the requirements and make sure that the package is optimised for you, simply by bridging the gap between you, the client, and the vendor. This means getting the right price and the right deal on the table, which in itself, can provide an immediate cost saving.

We’ve seen instances where a small number of changes to the licence deal can result in 5 or 6 figure reductions to the total cost of ownership over the 3-5 year period. Even in the instance where the price increases as a result of optimisation, all in all this is going to provide reduced cost of ownership or increased ROI. It’s a win-win situation.

Then there are the implementation costs. If you’re a company with:

  • A multi-brand, multi-site, multi-lingual requirement.
  • A requirement to integrate into a CRM/ERP or other back-office application.
  • A specific ambition to engage with your customers using automation or personalisation.

…then the way that the platform can support that requirement can be a differentiator in the speed of time and cost to market, as well as the time and cost to support and maintain it. The implementation partner is perfectly placed to advise on potential complexity of the solution and significantly reduce TCO or increase ROI in the medium to long-term.

We know the nuances of the technology

Whilst we consult on a number of platforms, the two that Mando have by far the most implementation experience in is Sitecore and Episerver. Both of these platforms are widely praised by our teams and our customers, and by both technical and business users. However, naturally they have their nuances - certain features that have been developed in ways which suit the requirements of most organisations, but rarely all.

This could be the way that a new microsite is created, maybe the way in which the CMS shares content to a mobile app, or the way that it works within a particular infrastructure.

If you’re going to live with this platform for 5 years, that’s a long time to be frustrated by the way that you have to achieve a common task on a regular basis. Moreover, if you need to customise the feature to make it work for you, then that could carry a significant cost to implement, support and maintain.

Adding weight to the business case

Finally, importantly, you want your business case to pass through the board and be approved with the minimal amount of fuss. Unless you’re a seasoned buyer of customer experience platforms (in which case I doubt you’d be reading this), it’s likely that the board will want to scrutinise your decision – this in-turn could delay or derail your plans to get the migration party started.

Having validated your decision with an external partner who can boast that experience will add weight to your business case, and provide a further level of confidence to that stickling CFO that the significant long-term investment you’re are about to make, is in-fact, sound. Don’t be the one who makes the wrong decision, or worse, pays over the odds for it…

If you’re looking to invest in a customer experience platform and would like to know how Mando could help, drop me an email at mark.simpson@mando.agency.

Want to know more? We'd love to talk.