4 Questions to Ask When Choosing a JBoss Consulting Partner

Posted by Nichole Bui

Jun 10, 2014 3:22:00 PM Open Source Consulting, JBoss Middleware

Are you looking for a JBoss consulting partner that can help you implement your business objectives but are not sure how to differentiate from one IT vendor to the next?  Finding the right partner is pretty much like looking for the right contractor.  It can be a daunting task.  Having recently gone through a kitchen remodeling project, I understand how difficult it is to find the right contractor and I’m quite picky.

There are so many contractors out there, where do you start?  How do you narrow down the list?  What questions should you ask?  How do you know if the contractor will deliver on what they promise?  Are they qualified?  Do they understand what you’re trying to accomplish?  Do they share your vision?

The good news is that with the right set of questions or points to take into consideration, you could easily distinguish one contractor above the rest, or at least significantly narrow the field.

Having worked with many organizations and being vetted by them to see if we are the right JBoss partner for them, I see a common set of proof points that our potential customers are trying to extract from us.  Sometimes, they have had another vendor in there who didn’t do a good job so they’re really cautious and are taking extra steps to make sure that they’re not making the same mistake again.

How to get started?

With so many solutions providers out there today, how do you get started?  Needless to say, Google is our friend.  You can start by conducting a search on the type of skills or projects you are looking to undertake.  For example, if you are starting a project to extract your business rules from your legacy system and you leverage JBoss in your enterprise, you can search for “JBoss BRMS consulting.”  Alternatively, you can go to the Red Hat JBoss website and search for a partner.

But how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?  It is easy for a company to talk about how good and innovative they are, but how do you know who can really back it up?  One way of doing so is through the type of content on their site.  Is their site filled with lots of marketing speak and platitudes, or does it offer content that is insightful, practical, and useful?  I like to start by checking out their blog, but you should also check out things like case studies and testimonials.

In addition, what is the culture of the company?  Do they have full-time employees or just subcontractors?  This is an important facet if you are looking for bodies (staff augmentation) vs. someone that can help you design and build solutions to solve your business problems (consulting).

Depending on what you read on the website and how they align with your needs, you may be able to further narrow your list.

How to vet your JBoss consulting partner candidates?

Once you have narrowed your list, it’s time to set up a consultation with your prospective vendor.  You should use this as an early opportunity to gauge a vendor’s professionalism.  Are they responsive?  When they talk to you, do you feel that they value your business or are you just another customer?  How many calls does it take before you get to talk to someone technical that could help you with your problem?

During your discussions, you should try to solicit the following.  

  1. Does the vendor understand the problems you’re trying to solve?

  2. Does the vendor have experience with the tools and/or your business domain?

  3. Does the vendor have experience delivering projects on a similar scale?

  4. Is the resource that is engaged during the sales cycle part of the implementation team?

Does the vendor understand the problems you’re trying to solve?

Try to gauge if the vendor understands your business problems.  The types of questions that the vendor asks you can help you determine their level of understanding.  Does the vendor offer up solutions that are inline with your thinking?  Do they understand what you are trying to do or are they trying to push their agenda (i.e., a technology or product) on you?  The vendor should not be pure technologists.  First and foremost, they need to understand your business and then leverage technology to solve your business problems.

Does the vendor have experience with the tools and/or your business domain?

If your company is already using a particular technology stack, it is important that the vendor have the experience with the products and toolsets you want to use.  However, they should have experience in more than one product.  Otherwise, how can you be sure that you’re getting the best solution?  While it is important that the vendor have domain knowledge for your particular industry, I believe that it’s not critical.  If they are consultants who are business savvy, they can pick up the domain knowledge.  On the other hand, the product experience is not something that can be learnt in a short period of time.  It requires practical hands-on experience that can only be gained over time with each project implementation.

Does the vendor have experience delivering projects on a similar scale?

To help assess the vendor’s experience, you should ask the vendor how many projects they have implemented for other customers.  What were some of the issues they ran into, if any?  What is their process for getting started?  This also helps to determine if the vendor is process oriented or whether they just shoot from the hip.  You want a vendor that has a repeatable process.  This validates that they have done this more than once with other customers and you get to benefit from their lessons learned.

In addition, it would be good to know the size of the team.  How long the team has been working together?  This helps to gauge the maturity of the staff and provides an indication of the turnover rate.

Is the resource that is engaged during the sales cycle part of the implementation team?

One concern that many organizations raise is that in the sales cycle, they are talking to a hot shot solutions architect but when it comes to delivering the project, they are given another consultant who is not so hot.  As a result, we often get asked, is the architect that is talking to them going be the one that’s delivering.  You want the answer to this to be a definitive ‘YES’.  

During the sales process, you often times divulge details about your business processes and your vision for the project so that the vendor can size the effort.  In addition, you would have built a level of collaboration and rapport with your architect.  You have established a common plan to move forward.  Therefore, you don’t want to have to start over with someone new.  

These types of questions should help you better assess a vendor’s competence and whether you feel comfortable working with them to deliver on your project goals.  In conclusion, I have to admit that at the end of the day, there is no real surety that after all the research and due diligence that you have done, that you will have found the perfect partner.  However, by taking into consideration the points we discussed above and asking the questions, you are closer to finding the right JBoss partner that can more likely deliver on your IT needs.

Did you find this post helpful?  Can we help you with your IT needs?  Download our firm overview to find out more about Vizuri.

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Posted by Nichole Bui

Nichole Bui possesses more than 20 years of experience in business and information technology in both the federal and private sectors. She brings this experience in her role as AVP, where she works with clients to define the scope of work and assembles a team to deliver the solution.

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