Industry knowledge is power

Industry knowledge should be highly valued when selecting technology vendors. Read our six tips for choosing the right partner for your digital journey.

Successful organisations understand the importance of investing in business development and digitalisation. And future-proof technology platforms and up-to-date solutions play an essential role in the digital roadmap. But buying IT services is not easy. Factors to consider related to vendor selection include cost and pricing, capability and experience, communication, customer support, resource availability, vendor characteristics and cultural fit. How should possible partners be evaluated against these criteria?

I believe that industry knowledge and best practices could be something to put more value on. Knowledge helps us to make decisions, solve problems, and understand the world around us. Industry knowledge describes the accumulation of knowledge and understanding of the complexities of specific industries. It tells that the person understands how a particular business functions.

With industry knowledge and expertise, consultants and IT service providers can speed up your development, enhance the service and solution quality and, in the end, increase the value and return on investment remarkably. In this blog, I will give examples of what to look for regarding industry knowledge and its importance when selecting technology vendors.

1. Understanding the business

Amidst digital transformation, the demand for relevant IT services continues to grow. However, IT must improve its maturity in key capabilities to maintain relevance in the organization. It’s not enough to provide technical expertise for a given organisation but, even more importantly, to understand industry fundamentals, issues and trends.
IT should no longer be a separate support function but a critical enabler of the company’s digital transformation. This requires common business objectives and strategic alignment with other functions.

When utilising vendors as providers of IT services, a company needs to make sure the partner understands the business objectives and can discuss with key stakeholders in the industry-specific language and terms. Thus, make the most out of the discussions by using the industry knowledge to put details into the proper context.

2. Accurate estimations and relevant service/solution scope

As in any sales situation, service providers will do their best to convince buyers that they are the best option considering the targets and situation. I can’t highlight enough the importance of not falling into overpromises.

Vendors focused on a specific industry as their core strategy have better accuracy in work estimations and provide better fit considering the scope of services and solution features. Industry knowledge will enable a vendor to offer confident targets: what can you achieve in your industry with a specific budget?

3. Outcome-focused development

Agility has recently been the primary trend in solution/product development. In most cases, chopping the work into smaller units and focusing on concrete deliverables improves efficiency and provides transparency on the development progress.

One element of agile solution development is output orientation: tight deadlines and ambitious targets for deliverables guide developers. However, delivering something as a ready solution does not necessarily bring any value to the business. Thus, in addition to deadlines and solution features, it would be essential to focus on actual outcomes: something being validated as improving the business. Outcomes translate into monetary value or a better user experience for the end users or customers.

Focusing on business outcomes requires emphasising with the customers or end users to understand their pains and gains. Solution developers must align detailed solution feature/functionality design with higher-level business vision and strategic targets. Business leaders usually have reasonable assumptions about why the planned solution or product is essential for the business. But if the vendor does not have industry experience and does not try to discover those assumptions, it is tough to follow up on the suitable measures for the success of the intended solution.

With industry knowledge, a vendor should also be able to challenge and support the company in solution scoping, share best practices and agree on how to move on with clear milestones, responsibilities, and deadlines. And in the end, provide actual outcomes, not just any outputs.

4. Emphasis on user adoption

Even the most desired and fanciest product will not bring value if user adoption fails. There are many possible reasons why this may happen. Common issues can be a lack of clear scope or definition at the outset, no sustained leadership support, employee resistance, weak motivation to change and inadequate communications and training.

To avoid these pitfalls, a company should:

  • Invest in user empowerment and training, such as self-service solutions, simulations, and super user programs.
  • Start adoption initiatives early.
  • Share and use adoption data across the organisation, which helps keep stakeholders aligned and positively correlates to customer satisfaction.

The role of an IT service provider or development vendor is often limited, excluding roll-out and change management. However, it should not need to be so. Consultants with industry knowledge could bring in great expertise and best practices from other similar cases. Even though every company is unique, many issues are shared with other market players. And especially practices related to adoption boost could be copied and reused with the help of experienced consultants.

5. Efficient and future-proof solution support and maintenance

Application management and support are often considered only as a potential cost-saving area where the best service provider is the cheapest one. However, as digital transformation is changing the role of IT from support to strategic business enabler, the importance of intelligent application architecture management is increasing.
A robust and agile application architecture offers an enterprise the ability to adapt quickly to changing user requirements, scale on demand and reduce time to market.

However, making a business case to develop application architecture competency can be challenging. IT partner with strong industry expertise and business orientation can engage with senior executives in regular briefings to drive home the importance of good application architecture practices.

By providing industry insights and best practices, a vendor can support the company to be proactive and gain a competitive advantage with smart solution and application management. To retire applications at the right time and develop the old systems intelligently for smooth-running application infrastructure.

6. Speaking the same language

It is also essential to and with the industry knowledge, communicate effectively with stakeholders and other industry professionals in a professional, authentic and convincing manner. Every industry has its own “language” or jargon, and there’s nothing worse than being an “outsider” and not understanding the fundamentals of the industry’s specific language.

Any business consultant, salesperson or training professional will know the power of being able to converse convincingly with clients in a given industry. Nowadays, you should expect the same industry fluency from your technical experts and IT service vendors.

Industry knowledge is an asset

Industry knowledge is not limited to business stakeholders but is an asset for every player in the market. It is worth challenging your current vendors, especially the new ones, on their industry expertise. And ask yourself how you can make the most value out of vendors’ expertise in the industry.

Knowledge acquisition is not a passive pursuit. Your vendors should concentrate on it in a proactive, focused way and with a long-term perspective. With the correct orientation, knowledge is power also when your service partner provides it.

Elina Peuhkurinen

Lead of Industries

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