1. If you could share one "best practice" on working with your systems integrator, what would it be?
Regular and constant communication - need regulare status updates to insure that any challenges/issues are addressed in a timely manner.
Whether formally (in the RFP) or informally (through discussions), ask the integrator to extend their focus beyond the project. Have them leverage their subject matter expertise by keeping an eye out for further integration opportunities--during the project and beyond.
A support agreement with detailed standards of performance.
Because I find this to be a difficult situation, not having great luck with integrators – the most important aspect to me is having a good project manager within the integrator that works for me.
Clear Communication on expectations and understanding. More times than not, integrator sub-performance is a direct result of poor communication from either party involved. Each entity involved has ownership in the project and needs to communicate expectations clearly.
Sharing your own vision and goals for your system and addressing assumptions on a regular basis is tantamount to ensuring that your integrator is providing the best and most applicable solutions. The integrator doesn’t know your needs or your business like you do, it’s your duty to help them.
Communicate, communicate a lot and often. You should never hear the words "I thought you knew."
Quickly establish and contractually commit to conditions of satisfaction (project timelines, budget, performance expectations, payment terms & commissioning standards) that are realistic and achievable. Maintain a focus on long-term partnership.
Set up an action plan at the onset of a project that includes key milestones and timelines.
Develop a common language between all those involved in the process so that everyone understands what each other is saying. Not everyone involved in the IT process has the same educational level, skill set or comprehension. Those that do not understand may not ask for a clarification because they would feel embarrassed or inferior to the others.
Frequent, robust measurement of work provided; i.e., Key Performance Indicators, Quarterly Business Reviews, Business Metrics Dashboards and similar.
I recomment constant communication informally as needed as well as formal at regularly scheduled intervals to manage expecations, validate assumtions and actively monitor key performance indicators (green, yellow, red). Business unit customer misunderstandings and disappontments degrade quickly and consume increasing amounts of resources, good will and credability with the passage of time.
When selecting a system integrator for a single site, it is important to ensure that the company is a licensed and trained provider for the manufacturer of the system. If you are not familiar with qualified integrators in the area, as the manufacturer for a list. It is very different when identifying an enterprise wide systems integrator. Ensure that have the experience and depth to provide this type of service. Be careful when engaging in maintanence contracts; as with many such contracts they are very expensive and not necessary.
Communication. The integrator of today needs to remember to fully and timely communicate with their customer.
If the two cannot mutually "link themselves" together, the end result will be potentially disastorous. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
2. What is your main challenge or problem when working with your systems integrator?
My not forsee challenges/issues that are specific to a client and then not communicate a solution to the problem in a timely manner.
Having the integrator meet ALL your requirements. Ultimately, integrators are technology vendors. As such, they should adopt proven IT practices--requirements gathering by a Business Systems Analyst would go a long way toward a successful implementation.
Consistency of performance by individual offices under a global support agreement.