Tips #17 - Select the Right Implementation Services Provider

Services firms can prove essential to successful implementations, especially in the early phases of your program, when your internal team may lack specific expertise. For larger technology projects, you'll spend more here than on the technology itself. In this post I'll describe how you can adapt the process we laid out for software vendor selections to choosing the right implementation partners.

How to Adapt Your Selection Process

When selecting a services firm, you should follow the same key tenets as when choosing technology: iterative, adaptive, team-based, and above all, empirical.

Services By Category
Depending on your program, you may need external help in a variety of different areas. The purple boxes represent traditional integrator skills, while the green may be better delivered by agency-type firms.

Once again, set up a test-based process. You want to simulate the work that the services firm will actually conduct, so invite them to do more than just describe their methodology; rather, have them lead you through some mock sprints with them, both in the demo round and then (in a more detailed way) the bake-off.

Evaluating a Services Firm

The way that you evaluate a services firm will also differ a bit from a software provider. Here’s a short list of considerations:

  • Team dynamics: How closely does their team cooperate with each other and with you?
  • Process and methodology: On paper, many services firms have similar methodologies, but you’ll notice key differences if you actually try them out.
  • Communications skills: These are essential for success!
  • Understanding of your needs: How much do they grasp the implications of your culture, size, and industry segment?
  • Mastery of relevant technology: This is especially critical for integrators, but sometimes important for non-technical consulting work as well.


  • Services firms can be critical to your success, so vet them with the same care that you vetted the core technology.
  • Do not limit your choices to a single channel partner who the technology vendor may have identified during the selection process, but rather avail yourself of a full set of choices, particularly if it’s a larger project.
  • Consider the diversity of categories, from indie consultants and developers to global integrators and agencies, in order to zero in on a couple of tiers, recognizing that at different phases of your program lifecycle you may need different types of support.
  • The same agile-like approach that features an internal team following an iterative, adaptive, simulation-oriented process will make for better decisions.
  • To the extent you want to develop internal expertise in customizing or extending the technology, look for firms that will work in co-development mode with your team.
  • Don’t get swayed by elaborate or gift pitch meetings: what matters is how the firm really works, not what they say they can do, so focus your efforts on project simulations.
  • Modify your evaluation criteria to reflect what the services firm is delivering, and don’t undervalue intangible considerations like communications and cultural fit.
  • Compel the bidders to be transparent on hourly rates and their level of effort in a fine-grained way so that you can best align cost and business value.

Next Steps

If you're selecting digital workplace or marketing/engagement technology, be sure to check out RSG's hard-hitting vendor evaluation research.

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