So it’s 2015 and your company is live on Magento. Chances are you’re trying to make the most out of your site in order to hit your goals for the year. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone.

At Groove we talk with countless companies every day looking for a strategic partner to help with maintaining and improving their Magento site.

Companies talking to us typically fall into one of four categories:

1) They had an in-house “person” and now he/she is gone.

2) They crossed the finish line with their implementation partner, but regardless that both will admit there was shared responsibility in the experience, they simply want to make a change.

3) They’re tired of dealing with a “middle man” who doesn’t have insight, competence or access to the people doing the work and/or doesn’t feel like waking up at midnight to talk to them when those magical dedicated resources are in the middle of their workday.

4) The best access you get is from their Sales Team, who wants to sell you an additional service line while you’re still trying to evaluate how well they perform for the services you’re already engaged with them to provide.

If one or a few of these resonate all too well, you don’t have to worry. You’re not alone.

However, I felt compelled to share some thoughts on where Groove grades its “Managed Services” accounts and how we evaluate how well our team is doing in graduating from the “one-off development order-taker” to a true strategic partner.

Our system is simple: we have five key metrics we look for in this business unit:

1. Access

Are we providing access to our Technology Team when it makes sense? No, I don’t want you g-chatting with our technology resources, but I also don’t expect for them to be like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz.

For us to be successful, there needs to be a sensible level of access to the people deploying the work. If you can’t get this for more strategic projects, quarterly planning meetings or integration discussions, it’s time to find a new partner.

2. Analytics

This one truthfully cracks me up at times. Countless companies will approach us for Managed Services/Maintenance/Support but seem surprised when we ask for analytics access.

Let me be clear: asking us to be a “strategic” Managed Services partner without having conversations around key site metrics is like leaving your car at the mechanic but taking the keys with you.

If you’re not engaging in a dialogue with your partner about analytics on some sort of scheduled basis — regardless of whether you’re “just a Managed Services” customer or not — it’s time to find a new partner.

3. Communication.

Here’s the one everyone loves to talk about and the one we love to pounce on with prospective clients. There is no successful engagement that doesn’t include regularly scheduled communication.

This is where the Account Manager can play an invaluable role to the relationship when done correctly. Chances are your Account Manager isn’t a Magento Certified Developer, but they should be communicating with you on a regular basis to ensure that you’re both aware of what’s going on.

The more educated the Account Manager is on your business, the more empowered they are to ensure your team can provide relevant ideas. If you’re not engaged in a regular dialogue (bi-weekly or weekly) with at least one resource, it’s time to find a new partner.

4. Roadmap

At Groove we engage with companies with varying transaction levels from $1 million to more than $50 million per year online. When it comes to planning documentation, I dare to say we’ve seen it all. However, what hinders a strong engagement more than anything is the inability to leave the tactical tasks that inevitably come up and conduct more high-level planning.

The ability to work with your partner to define a roadmap of where you are today and where you want to be over the next 90/180/365 days is critical to making sure that both you and your partner are in a position to win.

By working through this together, the exercise alone will allow your partner to get an idea of where you’re trying to head and how they can provide the ideas, input, resources and timelines you need to get there.

A lack of a roadmap doesn’t mean you’re doomed for failure, but from our experience not having it makes it difficult to establish those critical check-ins and milestones throughout an engagement.

5. Feedback

A healthy Magento Maintenance relationship is like any important relationship in your life. It inevitably has some ebb and flow that spurs disagreements at points, but if you’re not getting feedback or questioning from your partner on the latest idea you’ve brought to the table, then my best advice is to RUN.

I remind our team on a weekly basis that it’s our job to be that honest partner and let our clients know if we think they are being unrealistic. If we aren’t in a position to do that, then chances are our engagement isn’t that important to them. If you haven’t gotten feedback on an idea or ever heard your partner push back on ideas with a suggested alternate strategy, it’s time to find a new partner.

Overall

What you’ll notice in all of this is that most of our observations are based on good relationships. It’s because the connection between you and your Magento partner should be just like the important relationships in your life. Relationships go both ways and it’s crucial for both parties to work together to achieve mutual goals.

A good Magento Maintenance partner defines personal success by their ability to help their client be successful.

A Magento partner will test the boundaries and work for you, but it’s important that clients are prepared to do the same.

Every day we listen to the person who “just got out of a bad relationship” or is trying to leave a relationship but wants to find solid ground before making the jump from their current provider. The truth is we often find that, for every “bad partner,” there’s a client or two who didn’t want to work at these five key aspects of the engagement.

A great Managed Services relationship means visibility and education are together on a two-way street. Make sure that you’re prepared to hold the next partner and yourself accountable. I promise as awkward or strange as this will seem at first, that’s when you’ll know you’ve found the right one.

Are you looking to learn more about our Magento services? Contact us today! We’d love to help.

Mack McGee
Executive VP & Principal

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