Businesses across industries lean on third-party partners all the time. Vendors step in and solve problems that are outside the scope of businesses’ resources or expertise, lending their knowledge as needed.

It’s the role that EnSight+ fills for our clients. One such job was for a client that installs utility equipment. This client needed highly skilled installation technicians to handle some complicated jobs, but those jobs occurred only sporadically. So the company was paying a higher salary to handle more mundane tasks, causing huge cost overruns. The business was faced with either raising price points or finding another solution.

That’s where EnSight+ came in. Our job was to design a custom tech solution for the company, prioritizing ease of use and data security. The challenge: Find a way our client could segment these complicated installation work orders and hand them off programmatically to a third party rather than employ workers full time.

We created a technical “island” for this subset of work orders so our client could better customize access between full-time employees and contractors, keeping all the details in order but ensuring sensitive data stayed safe. Our client retained full visibility into daily production, and the vendor was able to seamlessly complete the work without issues.

Vendors can be heroes. In fact, digital technologies can help utility companies reduce operating expenses by up to 25 percent. But the wrong vendor can slow down your business — or worse, destroy a piece of it. Identifying the best possible partner for your project is vital to success.

Finding the Right Vendor

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The right team for the job is out there, but it might take some digging to find it. Ask these questions when vetting third-party vendors:

1. Has the vendor done similar projects?

First things first: You want to know whether the vendor can actually do the work as well as or better than you can internally. Look at a couple of past projects that are similar to yours, which will help demonstrate that. Vendors should be improving your operations, not weakening them (or your reputation).

2. How is the vendor’s financial standing?

Poor financial health is a major red flag. Vendors need to be prepared to go through thick and thin with you. Is there any history of late payments or any failure by the vendor to pay its own staff? There are too many stories of shoddy vendors accepting clients’ money and walking out on the job when they can’t pay employees or sub-contractors, and you don’t want to become one of them.

3. What threats can you identify?

When you hire third-party partners, their problems can become your problems. For instance, is the vendor in hurricane or tornado territory? What’s the vendor’s cybersecurity like? This should include technical, physical, and data safeguards designed to protect sensitive information. Also, ask about items like password requirements, account lockout processes, session timeouts, VPNs, and who will have access to your data.

4. Can you speak with references?

See what others have to say. Ask for at least three references, preferably a mix of current and past clients to get a well-rounded perspective on the vendor’s work and how services have evolved over time. Ask the references for their overall impression of the vendor and whether that company would hire the vendor again. Then, look for inconsistencies between what the vendor has told you and what the references say.

5. How does the vendor do in a face-to-face meeting?

After all this research, it’s time to meet in person and tour the vendor’s facilities. There’s no better way to evaluate everything you’ve learned from the vendor’s team and references. For smaller projects, a video conference suffices, but for more critical projects, a trip to the vendor’s facilities will be well worth it. And whether you’re meeting physically or virtually, make sure you’re having a conversation with the project manager who will be responsible for your project. Even if everything else checks out, if your project manager’s philosophy differs from your own, you’re not going to see the results you want.

Want to have this info on hand? Download our Vendor Evaluation Checklist (PDF)!

Ready, Set, Go (but Slow)

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If everything looks solid, it’s time to get to work. Even then, however, ease into it. Consider giving the vendor only a chunk of a project to begin with, and see how it goes. Starting small and measuring the results are the most effective ways to judge whether the company has the right team for you in the long run. After all, it’s up to the vendor to prove worthy of your business.

Finding the best person or team for the job is all a matter of researching candidates and asking the right questions. When you like the answers you’re getting, chances are the vendor will become a strong partner in taking your business to the next level.

EnSight+ works hard to provide customers with technological solutions that will unlock business excellence. The company was developed to adapt to each business that we serve. Our dedicated deployment team will work with you to determine the features and processes best suited for your company or department.

If you’re searching for a tech partner in the utilities industry, get in touch with EnSight+. Our team would be happy to answer your questions.

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