Three Conversations Customers Must Have with Their Digital Solutions Vendor - Part 2
February 25, 2021
The Scope and Scale of Today's Digital Transformation Capabilities Have Resulted in a Seismic Shift in How Customers Evaluate and Deploy These Solutions
By Jamie Flerlage, Cornerstone Controls
In Part 1of this post, we examined processes and talking points for a successful Technical Discovery. In Part 2, we will explore two other conversations that customers should employ as part of their digital solutions discovery process: The Technical Briefing and The Executive Briefing.
Conversation #2: The Technical Briefing
For most customers, a tech briefing is the proverbial vendor “dog and pony show.” These meetings can go off the rails for many reasons, but I’ve listed a handful of common patterns below:
The tendency to overload technical presentations with slides and detail that aren’t relevant to solving the problems uncovered in the Technical Discovery
The conversations focus too much on overview material, features, and functions and lack direct correlations to the technical problems, process challenges, business outcomes, and rate of return
Either the customer or vendor is wary about preliminary discussions about budgets, timelines, and pricing models; a compelling business case requires a healthy conversation about all three
Time management; neither the vendor nor the customer structured the conversation to leave enough time to discuss how the solution impacts the specific business problems and outcomes and next steps or action items
My recommendation is that customers should treat the Technical Briefing as a strategic workshop that combines a conversation about business needs with a technical solutions review and demonstration. At a minimum, customers should ensure that their technical influencers are in attendance (including operations and IT) and at least one executive sponsor.
The Technical Discovery process should unearth specific business challenges; these findings should be the foundation for your conversations. At a high level, a Technical Briefing should include, at minimum, the following components:
A joint findings review from the technical discovery; make any corrections or additions
A summary of the business challenges, solution objectives, and desired outcomes
An agenda that isolates each business challenge and pairs it with potential solutions
Demonstration of how the proposed technical solution achieves the desired business outcome
Preliminary discussion about budget, timeframes, and pricing models
After the Technical Briefing, several actions can be taken, including additional Technical Discoveries or Briefings. Later in the process, management will want to be briefed. The next section offers some high-level guidelines for influencers and sponsors that need to conduct an Executive Briefing.
Conversation #3: The Executive Briefing
Early in my career, I was on the customer side of these conversations, evaluating vendors, solutions, pricing strategies, and engagement models. Later in my career, I found myself on the vendor side. Both situations allowed me to witness successes and failures. There are three key lessons I learned:
Executives and managers leave the meeting early because their employees and the vendor haven’t positioned the business issues, desired outcomes, and the solutions’ impact upfront
Technologists from both the customer and vendor focus too much on long, drawn-out solutions details rather than deliver short, crisp holistic summaries that are easy to follow.
Meeting organizers forget that they’re making an ask; management inquires about price, ROI, business impact, or “when can we get started,” and the organizers are unprepared to answer
Preparing for an Executive Briefing should be a collaborative process between the customer and the vendor. Successful methods typically involve many paths and people, but I’ll offer some high-level recommendations you can incorporate into your process:
Repeat success; ask your colleagues from different business units if they have a successful presentation process or ask your superiors what they want to see in the briefing
Start with the data from your Technical Discoveries and Briefings and build the presentation’s foundation on those findings (specify business problems, risks, costs, and investment return)
Be judicious with your meeting time; set boundaries for both presenters, and conduct practice run-throughs to ensure everyone’s comfortable and that the topics fit within their allotted time
Build-in time for the management team to ask questions; consider including your questions about the business, operational, or financial findings you uncovered in the technical discoveries
Have an agreed-upon strategy for presenting your business justification; prepare a succinct “ask” of the management team, and coordinated response to management’s business questions
I began this two-part post by asking customers to “treat the discovery process as a strategic, mission-critical component to gathering the right information for decision-making.” Giving structure to both the Technical and Executive Briefing will help drive that strategic, mission-critical discovery process forward.