Four things to look for before hiring your IT SMAC vendor
What to look for in your SMAC Vendor?
For the uninitiated, SMAC is an acronym for ‘Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud’. It is a fast emerging business model based on the convergence of the four aforementioned trending technologies.
Integrating with social media such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, allowing teams to share information and collaborate on projects is just one part of Social. According to me, the future lies in using collaboration use cases in regular business practices.
Handheld devices have completely changed the way we interact within and beyond the business ecosystem. There is no denying that my personal and professional lifestyle have both been altered due to mobile phones and easy access to data.
I tell business leaders that they cannot afford to ‘ask why’ anymore on analytics investments. The last two types of analytics in the image above are absolutely necessary for companies who want to be leaders. However, there is no reason to fret over the absence of an in-house team to develop them. You can and potentially should outsource your analytics. I will discuss this rationale in another article.
The cloud is now a giant storage space for really anything. Teams can upload images, documents, videos and audios on a cloud server, enabling users and groups with account privileges to access them whenever they want. ‘X’aaS applications will continue to hold sway over the next decade.
I expect the SMAC Stack to proliferate in these four segments:
1. Customers: Marketing, selling and supporting the products/services.
2. Machines: Internet of Things or devices with sensors & mobiles.
3. Partners: Collaboration.
4. Employees: Knowledge Management and Retention.
The IT outsourcing business for SMAC is likely to be upwards of $225 Billion by 2020 (NASSCOM Strategic Report 2014)
So how does one take advantage of the new API economy? I have written earlier about the need to address product development challenges:
* Architecting the concept
* Achieving early to market
* Scaling from zero to revenue
* Iterating product based on market dynamics
* Product not project focus
If you have outsourced or planning to outsource your SMAC development, here are some things that you need to be aware of. Over a decade in the service business has taught me a few insights which I want to be transparent about. Be sure that your SMAC vendor has a clear grasp of these four important attributes:
Schedule Adherence - Does your SMAC vendor ensure delivery as per agreed-upon schedule?
Designate milestones for critical coding and testing gates of the app development process. Mutually agreed milestones tend to bring laser focus to the app development process, keeps the vendor development team accountable and preferably must be in sync with product release dates and marketing campaigns.
Cost Optimization - Is the product, costing too much to build?
It is imperative that the SMAC vendor should not exceed the budget that you have set. Cost and schedule overruns are common traits in many projects. Have the scope of work and technology usage clearly detailed out. Regular project reviews and maximizing the use of online collaboration tools (Git, Jira, Asana, conferencing) etc. can unearth issues before they erupt.
Quality & Reliability - Is the vendor capable of consistently delivering a quality product?
Enhancing mobile performance, security firewalls and safeguarding the reputation of the company in the ‘Social Era’ are noticeably new requirements that are being added. With the explosion of mobile devices, the ability to support a huge number of the OS and devices is a necessity. This has increased the reliance on automation to take care of multiple test scenarios across all usable platforms. If still in manual or semi-automation mode, will the vendor be able to retain capable testing professionals or ensure that the project team follows mature testing practices?
Competency - Does the vendor understand what to do?
Recommending the right technology stack, automating the DevOps process, flagging potential development roadblocks and continual skill assessment of its employees are ways that the vendor can offer added value to the partnership. I have seen several Centers of Excellence (CoE) opening with great fanfare but quickly becoming passive captive centers without the hunger and desire to go out and seek new and challenging business.
IMHO, the vendor team needs to evolve into a vibrant Competency Center fueled by innovation. Apart from building a great product, they should focus on process improvement and User Experience (UX) making your products absolutely ready for the digital enterprise.
Let me reiterate that neither customer nor the vendor is infallible however, working in a partnership mode and sharing the learning as we work together can pay dividends to both partners.
Both client and vendor need to understand:
1. The shift in decision making from the CIO to the Line of Business (LOB) leaders
2. The platform today is the portal of yore
3. Understand and co-opt technology trends e.g. bots
4. Collaborate transparently
5. Build robust practices for evaluating deliverables and
6. Manage cost challenges prudently.
Don’t get SMACked. Work with a vendor who understands the business and technology ramifications and is able to competitively create an edge to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. Let me know what you think. Happy reading.