Integrating new tech or tech talent into your business is an exciting play. You will have access to more features, functionality, smoother user interfaces, and new products to play with, and you might open the door to new professional and revenue-generating activities.
But before you get too excited about the possibilities, you need to take some time to understand the people and the company
you are going to work with. The product you initially review may look flashy and perfectly suited to your needs in the demo videos, but a good tech partner goes beyond that.
What to Ask
Before you finalize a deal, make sure you ask any new tech partner these questions.
1. How Much Experience Have You Had?
No matter what type of tech partner you are considering, you will need to inquire about experience. For individual hires or agencies, you will need to know what kind of jobs they have previously had and how long they have been in the game. Since technology changes rapidly, more years are not always the better answer here
. Look for quality of experience rather than quantity. For platform vendors, look to see how long they have been in the game and how many clients they have.
2. What is Your Main Goal?
You probably have a goal already in mind, so do not assume your prospective partner is going to have the same goal or even a complementary one. Find out what your prospective partner is hoping to get out of this relationship. You may be surprised to learn the answer.
3. Who Will I Be Speaking with During This Agreement?
Communication is important. Every email you send or receive
has an impact on your partnership. Before you finalize the deal, make sure you know which individuals will be working on your account and how easy they are to get in contact with. The last thing you want is a communication hiccup during an emergency.
4. How Do You Handle Issues?
Speaking of emergencies, you need to know how your prospective partner would respond to an emergency. If you are working with a platform vendor, you should know what their ticketing system is like and whether they are available for emergency situations. If you are looking to hire an individual, you will need to know their response plan for an urgent problem.
5. What Do People Not Understand About Your Platform and Work?
This question is important because it has the potential to show you something you have missed. You will likely find that the clients of a particular vendor commonly miss an important feature or misunderstand the concept behind the platform. Finding out early on that clients have this misunderstanding can prevent you from making a decision with incomplete information and grant you a fuller picture of the tech you are purchasing.
6. How Do You Handle Updates?
Updates are important. Not only do software updates protect you against viruses, malware, and other cyber threats on a regular basis
; they also show that the company issuing them cares about the long-term success of their product. Find out how often your prospective vendor updates their software and why that is the case.
7. What is the Worst News You Have Had to Give a Previous Client or Employer?
This question is another that is meant to ferret out the negative aspects of your prospective partner. No individual or agency has a perfect track record, so see if you can find out some of the bad news they have had to deliver in the past. What happened? How did they handle it? Even more importantly, how did they react to your question? Were they willing to admit they had done something wrong?
If you are satisfied with the answers you have gotten, you may also want to consider these variables:
Obviously, you will have to consider your budget before making a decision. High-end tech and top talent come with proportionately high price tags.
You may prefer a certain type of user interface or a specific type of person to work with. These subjective factors may play heavily into the quality of your working relationship.
Think about the new tech's compatibility with your existing tech and the exact skills your prospective hire might bring to the table. Are those qualities in line with what you already have and what you need?
After you feel like you understand your new tech partner thoroughly and have researched their competition, you should reach out to finalize the deal. The few extra hours it takes to reach this level of understanding is well worth it—especially if something goes wrong.
Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.