From Digital Clarity Group Report
Many software components make up a complete customer experience management strategy and it's pretty impossible for every vendor to have them all (although some try). The same goes for service providers who help with the implementation. So you need a plan to pick your software -- and -- the right implementation partner.
Successful CEM Implementations Start with a Plan
Scott Liewehr, President / Principal Analyst at the Digital Clarify Group (DCG) has supported many organizations in their software selection processes. He told me he could flip a coin on whether the implementation would be successful, because he had no role in deciding who the implementation partner would be. He's also been in situations where he would go into an engagement where the organization had a good technology but wanted to change it because things weren't working. The problem is, it wasn't the technology's fault, it was the way it was implemented.
From these experiences and those of his partners, like Tim Walters, Partner / Principal Analyst of DCG, and others, Liewehr wanted to bring some "clarity" to the service provider decision process. That comes in the form of DCG's newest report: Guide to Service Providers for Web Content and Customer Experience Management."
The role of the software (and of the vendor selection process) is diminished in comparison to the role of the implementation, integration, and incorporation of the software into a complete solution."
Evaluating Service Providers for CEM
First, Liewehr made it clear that this report wasn't a rating of service providers. It's more of a listing of capabilities of 42 North American Service Providers who work in the web content management market. DCG focused on web content management service providers for this report because they believe it's at the core of all CEM strategies.
To get down to the number 42 was something I was curious about, because there are a lot of companies out there offering implementation services for web content management. Liewehr explained that DCG reached out to about 130-140 providers to participate in the report. This list came from recommendations of top service providers from 15 of the most reputed software vendors. Some were hesitant. Tim McLaughlin, CEO of Siteworx said there's always a risk of "someone opening the kimono," but if a provider knows they are good at what they do, they should welcome this opportunity. McLaughlin also noted that despite this not being a report that rates providers, "people always look comparatively."
These providers range from smaller 15 person companies to larger 22,000 employee companies and you will notice some very large obvious providers are missing (of course now that they have seen the report, some have asked to be included in the next iteration).
The report is a balance of being informative, but easy to use, noted Liewehr. I have already talked about DCG's view on the CEM imperative, but you'll notice that the sections that go through the service providers is an objective view of the capabilities of each vendor provided by both the provider and their customers, plus research done by DCG. There is, however, a section at the end of each provider's listing called the "DCG Point of View" where you will find DCG's opinion of the specific service provider through their CEM lens.
Service Providers Come in Different Shapes and Sizes
The report acknowledges that the service provider landscape is both large and shifting. Four types of providers are defined in the report, but many providers see themselves fitting into more than one category.
Experience also tells us that there is no one size/type of service provider, and with so many different components making up a CEM initiative, it's impossible for one provider to offer everything needed.
Service providers are fundamentally reinventing their organizations
because CEM demands the fundamental reinvention of their clients’
So how you decide which service provider is right for you? DCG's Service Provider Assessment Framework can help. Liewehr says the approach is multifold.
Service Provider Assessment Framework
First, an organization needs to conduct the introspection required to understand what their needs are. The idea is to then take these needs and turn them into a set of capabilities for evaluating potential partners. These capabilities can be technical, skill oriented and general, and should be used in the selection process.
Liewehr also talks about the idea of the right "fit." Does the provider fit into the culture of the company and can the necessary trust be established? Finally, it's critical to perform reference interviews with other clients (interestingly, DCG notes failed projects -- or those with serious challenges -- should also be requested for references).
Liewehr (and DCG) believes that choosing the right service provider(s) has the most direct impact on the success or failure of an implementation. They also need to know the types of providers out there and what they bring to the table. Some providers, like software vendors, are best of breed, meaning they offer one or two services which they are very good at. Others are like "suites," offering an all in one package (although I still go back to the one provider can't really do it all). Some bring in other players themselves to fill in missing capabilities.
The report lists a series of questions an organization should ask during the selection process, including:
- Does the provider have the ability to lead a project or program at our organization, given its process, communication and change-control approaches?
- Do we feel comfortable that the service provider will work collaboratively with our project team, valuing our input and keeping us informed?
- Is it willing to train and educate our team to ensure our ability to be self sufficient, as appropriate?
Service Provider Profiles
It's impossible for me to list all 42 service providers, let alone go into the details of each one. I can tell you that some of these providers include:
- Acquity Group
- Boston Interactive
- Bridgeline Digital
- Hedgehog Development
- ISITE Interactive
- Navigation Arts
Each profile offers the following
- A snapshot of company information.
- A listing of the company’s WCM and WCM-related technology partnerships, areas of expertise, and primary industry area focus.
- An overview of the service provider, its project approach and value proposition.
- A selection of recent news, appointments and awards.
- Perspectives of what the company has to offer from both their clients’ point of view, and ours.
A couple of snapshots of report sections for different providers:
Acquity Group Profile
Final Thought on this DCG Report
I read this morning somewhere that this report is a "one of kind" report and it's true. You won't see this level of detail provided in a report discussing service providers. I've seen a couple of other analyst firms come out with quick reviews of top providers for different services, but not to this level. The fact that analysts are talking about this need to choose the right partners is critical.
Liewehr told me that you don't necessarily have to pick "the" best product on the market to have a successful implementation. If you have a great relationship with a service provider, then why would you not look at a solution they have experience with? Why drop a critical relationship, or set it up for failure by pushing a technology just because it's a leader in a Gartner report?
DCG's report costs US$ 2,399 and you can get a discount if you purchase it now.
I want to leave you with a comment that McLaughlin made when we were talking about this report that should resonate with everyone:
"The most educated buyers are our best customers."