How do dealers find the right partner to assist in information technology changes, updates and overhauls? Here are 10 important questions that you can ask any would-be transformation partner to help in the selection process:

  1. Does the partner understand your business objectives and direction?

    Good partners will work to understand your objectives and the direction your business is taking, and be responsive in adapting their offerings to address your particular strategies and goals. A partner will help you articulate your strategies and goals if you've yet to take this step.

  2. Has the partner invested time to understand the root cause problems in your dealership?

    Narrowly focused consultants view client problems and opportunities through the filter of their own limited offerings. They often focus on the symptoms, missing the root cause and providing only temporary relief. On the other hand, a good partner will use a fact-based approach to assess the current state of a retail operation, identifying both problems and opportunities, prioritizing each with respect to potential benefits, and then recommend the appropriate corrective action for each.

  3. Does the partner have a clear idea of the scope of the project?

    Many transformation engagements are doomed to fail because they get off to a bad start. The reason for the bad start: Failure to identify the scope or breadth of the project. Scope is the definition of what is to be included in the project and what is to be excluded. Good partners will work closely with you to identify the scope that you want, and review their understanding of the scope of the project.

  4. Is there a well-defined approach for the transformation engagement?

    If the scope defines the breadth of the work to be performed, then approach defines the depth of the work to be performed. Together, the scope and approach bind the project and provide the basis for the effort required. A good partner will use an innovative yet proven approach for solving your problem, addressing the three key business elements in every dealership: people, process and technology.

  5. What is the level of commitment you and your staff must make in terms of time?

    Following the complete evaluation of your business, a good partner will insist that you and a representative cross-section of your organization participate in the project being undertaken. In order to minimize business disruption, the partner also will give you an estimate of the time commitment required from you and your staff.

  6. Is the fee quote fair and based on the scope of the work to be performed?

    Transformation services can appear pricey when compared to your staff payroll. But you are going to use the transformation partner for a finite period of time only. A good partner will be forthright with the fee, providing a clear estimate and an explanation of how that estimate was reached.

  7. Does the partner have the skills to get the job done?

    A good partner will be prepared to provide you with samples of similar projects, client references and associate biographies as evidence of their relevant capabilities.

  8. Will the partner provide you with status checkpoints along the way?

    A good partner will keep you informed and “in the loop” with periodic status reports, including written summaries. Status reports will focus on the three critical dimensions of project management: schedule, budget and scope.

  9. Will the partner be around to stand by their work and help with implementation and follow up, if needed?

    Good partners are members of firms that are absolutely committed to the automotive retail industry, that have the financial staying power to stand behind their work, and can support your needs over time.

  10. Will the proposed engagement lead to increased self-sufficiency?

    A good partner delivers its services in a manner that makes you and your organization stronger, more capable and less dependent.

    While these questions provide a solid foundation for helping you select a partner who is a good fit, keep in mind that every partner and firm is different. Different firms will provide different answers to the 10 questions above. You must decide what questions are most important to your organization.

    Regardless, the consequences of not going through a rigorous selection process could affect your effort and even the financial health of your dealership.

Chris Schweikert is a vice president in Reynolds Transformation Solutions, which offers learning, customer relationship management, retail performance management and web services to the worldwide automotive retailing marketplace.