It’s not easy being a digital commerce merchant these days. Competition is everywhere, technology is rapidly changing, and customer acquisition/retention is a daily battle. Merchants need partners and a support system to navigate these complexities.

Arguably, the selection of an implementation partner is the most important decision that a merchant faces. To borrow a metaphor from home building, the implementation partner will play the role of general contractor while you, the merchant, are the homeowner. The importance of this general contractor role can’t be overstated. Your implementation partner will sit near the top of the decision tree – helping you to navigate all of the tool, service, and vendor evaluations that come along with building any home (solution). They have to be a trusted partner.

With this in mind should price be the determining factor when selecting an implementation partner? It certainly should be a factor but given what’s at stake not the factor. So what are the key criteria when evaluating candidate implementation partners? Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Without ever having worked with someone before, how do I know they are trustworthy?
    Trust is something that is earned, right? So how does this happen before the relationship even starts? Checking references is an obvious way. But when doing so you might want to ask “did they have your back?” This question typically yields a level of thought and insight that is a good indicator of trustworthiness. Look for clues in conversations with your prospective partner as to whether they have your best interest in mind. A good partner will keep things focused on you and your needs.
  1. How do I know if they are the right fit for the type of house I want to build?
    You probably wouldn’t want a log cabin specialist building your luxury mansion. Just because they are both (technically) a house doesn’t mean that any homebuilder should tackle the job. The right experience lends itself to efficiency and better decision-making. Apart from the obvious step of looking at past work of similar scope there are other ways to evaluate: are they asking relevant questions that I haven’t thought of? This is a sure sign of the right experience. Also, can they tell me what the common roadblocks or decisions that will likely present themselves based on their experience?
  1. Am I comfortable with the communication?
    As with most things that involve the complexity of a software implementation project, there will be problems. Count on it. The only way to effectively overcome them is with solid communication. There are two parts to this: 1) In the selection process, evaluate how the candidate partners are communicating with you. Do you feel they will be honest and forthcoming in delivering news that you may not want to hear? Is their communication style something that you can understand and relate with? Are you receiving information in a way that is clear and actionable? 2) Be sure to ask what the communication protocol will be during the project. This includes frequency, method, parties involved, etc. Does the protocol meet your needs and expectations?

The selection of an implementation partner is an important decision. When it’s all said and done it is the one factor that has the most significant impact on success or failure for your implementation project. Make sure you are armed with the right criteria before you begin the selection process.