Five best practices when adopting a new technology

How to manage vendors effectively when introducing a new technology to a firm.

Here’s a true, all-too-common story of technology implementation gone wrong. A CPA firm on the East Coast obtained three quotes to update its mission critical server containing all its client data. When the bids came in with little difference in price, the firm decided to use a new IT vendor with a limited track record that had just signed on as a client. It was a way to combine business development while addressing an internal need. Because the vendor was a client, the firm did not check references as it would have with any other vendor. As it turned out, the IT provider did not have the experience to deal with the job. A painful and expensive eight months later, marked by extended periods of downtime and stress, the firm returned to its original IT provider.

According to Malik Datardina, senior manager, audit innovation at Deloitte, one of the top challenges when introducing a new technology is managing vendors effectively to ensure they deliver the functionality required on time and on budget. In this respect, practitioners are facing the same challenges as any small or medium-sized enterprise.

He shares five best practices when it comes to introducing new technology to your firm.

Identify the business problem you are trying to solve. What are you trying to achieve? Is it cost reduction? Revenue enhancement? Ultimately the project has to be justified in those terms. Assess the new technology based on those objectives. For example, if you are considering moving to a cloud-based email service such as Gmail to help you save money, what are the cost savings? What are the security risks? What is generally accepted in the industry?

Understand your current IT system and infrastructure. What does it deliver and is it giving you the capabilities you need? Instead of reaching for something bright and shiny, do a deep dive on your needs and what you already have in place. If your current system isn’t meeting those needs, map out what moving to a new process will look like, including all integration points and the true effort involved. Communicate this to your vendor.

Identify the vendors offering the components you need. There are a few key criteria to consider during the vendor selection process: reputation, experience and financial viability. How long will the vendor be in the market? If it is a startup looking to get bought out by another company, you may not have that product for long. Ask to see the vendor’s road map for the future. If the scale of the project justifies the expense, it can be helpful to bring in a third-party expert who understands your business and the technology you want to introduce to help assess the vendors.

Create a robust vendor agreement. This should outline how much training will be provided, the kind of support you will receive and for how long and who will handle your calls (e.g., will the implementation team also provide support?). The agreement should also detail what kinds of controls are in place to protect client confidentiality.

Assign a core team of internal project champions. These individuals should be deeply embedded in the implementation and receive the initial training so they can help train the rest of your team. They will become the go-to people when the technology goes live.

Finally, the practitioner has to own the project, says Datardina. "Never hand the keys to the system to the vendor. Make sure whatever they are doing is in line with the agreement. If things are off course, understand why, who is responsible, what it means and correct the course."