WOAH! SLOW DOWN MR. PROSPECT! We just met... I thought we were just friends. It's not you, it's me. It's complicated. I think I need some time to myself to think this through.
Sounds eerily similar to what you see in relationships, right? You can see the how getting married is similar to selecting a professional service IT partner and is something you don't want to rush into without feeling 100% sure that this the right decision.
And just like in the dating world, no one is forcing you to be in a relationship. You have the option of going about it by yourself, but there are major benefits to partnering with another in the business world.
Here are the top things to consider when determining whether or not you should "engage" with a "partner:"
Are you where you want to be? Each year you set out this fiscal year with goals in mind. How far on or off track are you with these goals? Are you spinning your wheels trying to pin-point exactly where you are out of sync? Engaging with a partner can provide that unbiased, outside perspective and help you determine the best ways to get on track.
Do you have the experience to get it done? If you think about the DIY approach, or Doing It Yourself, there are a number of benefits including: low upfront cost, you gain experience with on-the-job training, and you get to see for yourself how easy or hard something is to accomplish. The biggest downside to this approach is RISK. You are having to learn something new, and there is high cost that is delayed till the mistakes and inexperience causes you to have to regress and possibly start over. Working with a partner with a lot of relevant experience can get the job done in a much quicker fashion and often times provides a return on the upfront investment, without having to factor in potential cost of not completing or having to correct.
Do you have a handle on the butterfly effect? When you start a project or work on an existing system, you may have a game plan and a road map, complete with milestones and deadlines. But have you correctly identified the impact it has on operations and other systems? These issues usually arise down the road, similar to the DIY approach, where inexperience of not having the right foresight can cause interoperability and systematic conflicts. A good partner will have the resources and perspective to understand the connectivity of systems and makes sure the plans are accounting for the proper scope of work with consideration for the unknown.
Sometimes people need to feel fall down a few times before they realize they need to work with a partner. And sometimes it doesn't hurt to try, so understand even with simple projects, even consulting with a partner can benefit your decision making process. Setting up an interview can verify your findings or show you the things you haven't considered.
Be sure to know your options, date around a while, and after interviewing at least three companies, you can determine whether or not to pop the big question to your vendor, "Will you do business with me?"