Managing enterprise search vendor – customer relationships.
Over the last decade of large-scale enterprise search projects I have found that relationships between the vendor and the customer can quickly become strained because the customer has no prior experience of working with a search vendor. Expectations on both sides then invariably do not meet in the middle and too often I end up trying to find a common basis for the resumption of the required degree of sanity.
The list below is based on my experience of where things have gone awry and it is certainly not a complete list. I doubt any will come as a surprise! On both sides of partnership I have suggested that there should be profiles of the people involved in the project. So often I have seen problems arise because the customer has always talked to Freda and now Michel seems to be the contact point.
What I have set out below are what I judge to be highly desirable expectations if an enterprise search implementation is going to be a win-win for the vendor (who always wants reference sites) and the customer (who wants to see a significant increase in search satisfaction). Looking at the customer expectations of a vendor inevitably cause me to consider the situation with Microsoft search applications and with Microsoft implementation partners. I’ll leave you to read the lines and between the lines.
Customer expectations of a vendor
- Transparency of the elements and schedule of the development road map
- Any potential requirement for a partial or full (!) reindex are flagged up at the earliest possible time
- Ability to input into the development road map
- Clarity about the respective roles of the vendor and any associated partners
- First level technical support no more than 3 time zones away
- Profiles of all members of the implementation and support teams
- Documented escalation procedure for red flag issues
- Membership of customer communities by region and business sectors
- Any hand-over between project leaders to be managed with considerable care
- Being proactive with suggestions for improving the search experience based on experience gained with other customers
Vendor expectations of a customer
- Complete clarity about the objectives for the search implementation
- Profiles of all the members of the implementation team
- Consistent format for feedback on the progress of the project
- Maintaining awareness of changes in stakeholders and expectations
- Adequate advance notice of any changes in project personnel
- Adherence to agreements over availability of internal support for the application
- Structured feedback in an agreed format on search performance
- Opportunities to learn from LoB managers about search adoption and satisfaction
- Willingness to share experiences with potential customers
- Be the first to know if the customer has concerns