At Epinova, we're always looking for partners and technology that add extra value in our customer projects. Here are 5 areas that are critical to us when evaluating available technology and vendors.
In every project, for every customer, there are requirements that go beyond what Episerver delivers out-of-the-box. Whether it's PIM for an e-commerce site, DAM for a media-heavy site, CRM for a portal site, translation services or monitoring for any kind of site - we turn to external vendors to deliver the goods.
Being a leading Premium Episerver Partner, we are regularly approached by vendors who want to be our go-to supplier for specific tech needs. While we've developed some strong partnerships and preferences over the course of 200+ Episerver projects, we always evaluate each customer's needs carefully before making a technology commitment.
If you're regularly involved with CMS/Commerce implementations as a tech vendor - or if you're looking to become a preferred technology partner - the following list should be a useful resource to understanding what makes a successful partnership.
1. Products/services that add real value
There has to be a real use case for your technology - we never shoe-horn technology into a project. If it's not a good fit for a particular customer's current requirements, their budget or long-term vision, we look for other solutions. This also means we won't use customer projects as "sandboxes" just to satisfy our own curiosity for your cool new service or framework.
In sales processes with customers, we evaluate each case before deciding what kind of tech we will pitch to them. If your technology turns out to be the best fit, we're happy to showcase joint customer references or even bring you into the sales meeting. Just know that tech should never be selected by default, or based on partnerships alone.
2. Commitment and support
If we end up selecting a particular technology or vendor for a project, we expect mutual commitment on both parts. We expect you to bring your "A-game" even after closing the deal with one of our customers. Remember, this is when the real work begins.
Our baseline expectation is that your first line support is available, responds within a reasonable amount of time, and is knowledgeable about the inner workings of your technology. If we have to jump through several hoops to find a competent contact person, or we have to wait weeks for a reply, or you are unwilling/unable to investigate bug reports or improvement suggestions from us, alarm bells will ring.
Secondly, we expect you to use your expertise to counsel us (and the customer) in getting maximum value out of your technology - not just leaving us to find out for ourselves. Recommendations, pitfalls and performance tips are always welcome.
3. Quality and API documentation
We don't pitch beta products - period. While we may get excited about the potential of a piece of technology, if it's not production-ready or lacking key features, it's off our list. This goes for official Episerver products/add-ons, as well as for third-party offerings.
Your API should follow modern practices when it comes to semantics, method/parameter naming, response formats and versioning. If you have a test interface where we can try out different API requests and get actual sample data back without having to do a full integration first, that's a big plus.
Make sure your API documentation is correct and up-to-date with the latest version available to us. Having documentation available upfront when we are researching/estimating technology for a customer, is another big plus.
4. Integration options
These days, on-premise (locally installed) implementations are becoming a thing of the past. As such, we are biased towards cloud-based (SaaS) technology that means infrastructure, maintenance, and performance is handled at your end, not the customer's.
With regard to integrating with Episerver CMS/Commerce, your technology should slot as seamlessly into the Episerver user experience as possible. Preferably with a UI integration, meaning your interface is available from within Episerver edit/admin mode/TinyMCE, so the user doesn't have to log into a separate external interface. (Of course, this depends on the type of technology involved, or the level of customization required by the project.)
5. Scalable licensing / operational tiers
While your technology may be a great fit functionally for a customer, your pricing model may not. Having a scalable licensing model that allows customers to enter at a level suitable for their feature usage/traffic/page views (or other metric), may boost your likelihood of being selected.
Not all customers require the full spectrum of features from the start. If your technology offering consists of bundled features and your pricing is not consumption-based, consider operational tiers where more features are incrementally available on a basic-to-premium type price range. If possible, un-bundle your features so that your offering is tailored to each customer's needs. In short, allow the customer "room to grow" and to scale your business relationship with them accordingly.
Bonus criteria: GDPR compliance
As May 25th 2018 draws closer, GDPR should be top of everyone's agenda. If your technology is touching personal data, you should have a plan for helping your customers/development partners deal with GDPR. As a sub-contractor either to Epinova or directly to the customer, your operation must be as GDPR compliant as possible.
At the very least, this means you must have appropriate safeguards to protect customer data and restrict access, whether embedded into your technology architecture, or in your service infrastructure. Furthermore, you must be ready to comply with any request from the data controller (the customer) to rectify or delete personal data in your system - preferably by allowing us (the implementer) to do so via API so we can build self-service features for this.
Ready to partner?
In every project, we select what we think is the best combination of tech for that particular customer. As such, we're always keen to talk to potential new partners that may bolster our tool box. While we may not always engage into formal partnership agreements with any and all vendors, we tend to play well with those that closest match our criteria above.
If you have any questions regarding our tech selection processes, or if you have something to demo for us, don't hesitate to get in touch.