By Cathy Dew
Microsoft SharePoint offers extensive functionality including document management, enterprise search, collaboration, meta-data management, business connectivity services, business process automation etc. The deployment of these complex sets of features could significantly affect the quality of your business processes, while highly impacting your business. The complexity of these types of deployments also highlight the need to know how to properly select the appropriate implementation partner to render the needed SharePoint consulting services.
If you have already decided to use an external resource to support your SharePoint deployment, you may still find the process of selecting the right SharePoint consulting firm a bit challenging. The selection process can be easier and more efficient. With a set of selection criteria at your fingertips, and some hints and screening criteria that can lead to the selection of the appropriate partner and a well-designed and efficient intranet solution, your SharePoint implementation is far more likely to be successfully adopted in your organization.
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The following tips arm you with a set of criteria that you should consider when selecting SharePoint Consulting services:
Tip 1: Conduct Due Diligence for any SharePoint Partner
Does the SharePoint consulting company you are about to contract have all the skills needed for the successful completion of your SharePoint project?
Some consultant companies may not be quite as experienced as you need- they may have managed to secure one or two big clients through great marketing, or have been in the right place at the right time to land a few contracts, or even through some inside information or good networking. So now it’s important to look beyond the surface of the consultant companies you’re considering and determine their capability maturity.
As a solution buyer, through the process of conducting due diligence, you will have the opportunity to build a relationship with your potential consultants. The purpose of building that relationship is to use that time and trust to make sure they are capable of providing the services you need. During the due diligence period, consider the following in addition to conducting a technology skills and experience assessment:
Tip 2: Ask for a Delivery Team interview
While we always hope for the honesty during an evaluation of a company’s capabilities, the fact is that asking the consultancy company to fill in a questionnaire about their employee competencies or customer references may sometimes lead to a less than truthful response. Even interviewing the consulting firm’s employees may lead to the same result. So while it can be difficult to extract this information, one approach that is more effective than others is to conduct an interview of the staff that focus on the actual services delivery instead of the sales division or the company director. The people who will be delivering the work are generally more likely to have specific knowledge about the services being requested and are also the team who is responsible for delivering on what the sales division has promised. While others may have an objective to secure the sale, you may get a more honest and objective answer from the delivery team than those whose are more closely tied to the sales pipeline.
While you are interviewing the delivery team, try to determine:
- How they will handle your particular project
- Are they using out-of-the-box SharePoint features as much as possible?
- Are they applying customization only when needed?
- Are they actually saying “no” to some of your requests and recommending a SharePoint best practice approach instead,
- Are they considering maintainability and stability with their approaches?
Tip 3: Check the Delivery Process and Extra Services
For a successful SharePoint implementation, you will need more than a range of cross-functional roles with a team of SharePoint experts. You also need to make sure your partner has an appropriate delivery process in place. In addition to the delivery services component, ask questions about whether the consulting firm offers any complementary services. For example, do they offer a product support structure? Do they have additional services that can assist with user adoption such as a training program or a change management process? Many consulting companies focus so much on delivery that they fail to provide a comprehensive range of services to ensure successful implementation and the essentials for an effective ROI.
Tip 4: Ensure a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is in Place
A service-level agreement (SLA) is a part of a standardized service contract where a service is formally defined. Particular aspects of the service like scope, quality and responsibilities are agreed between the service provider and the service user. A common feature of an SLA is a contracted delivery time (of the service or performance). The purpose of outsourcing SharePoint support is to ensure any issues will be resolved quickly, or within a time-frame agreed to in the SLA. It is therefore critically important to get your SharePoint consulting partner to agree to a guaranteed service level agreement which is tailored to your business needs. An SLA will also help you measure your partner against key performance indicators and ensure the service they provide is consistently high.
These tips are intended to assist you as you select a SharePoint partner to support your SharePoint implementation. Conducting due diligence for any technology solution is a critical step along the journey, and the selection process is generally far smoother if you’re able to work with a partner who not only has the experience to deploy SharePoint in a manner that meets your business requirements, but is also open and transparent with its processes, delivery and team.
Need more advice on how to select the right SharePoint consulting services for your company? Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.