It may sound counterintuitive, but putting people ahead of process can often be a key to IT solutions that provide long-term value.

Companies in every industry require a specific approach to what might appear as the same problem. For instance, a nonprofit dealing with data management and legacy migration issues will require a different approach than a financial firm facing similar technical issues. Factors such as security protocols, federal regulations, and pertinent technologies will always vary according to the industry. The truth is that many IT vendors often forego a thorough consultancy approach in favor of a cookie-cutter approach that focuses too highly on ticking off the “process” checkbox.

A true IT partner works with a client to develop a technological solution that not only solves an operational challenge but attends to the specific nuances of the client’s business environment. When facing off against global firms with thousands of resources, boutiques must leverage their customer service and personable attentiveness to win over clients.

By placing the human element as a top priority for every IT project you approach, you can win big in the face of larger competitors. Although I’m writing this post from the perspective of up-and-coming IT firms, many of these tips and strategies can apply to firms in any industry.

Localize operations for hands-on service

Regardless of the initial contract size, smaller firms should be aiming for expansion by envisioning a potential partnership. Nurturing relationships and providing intelligent insight and value in person can help your firm leverage the human side of your business. One of the most effective means of doing so is by establishing strategically located operational centers near clients to place your people at the heart of a project. A great first step is to move away from solely depending on online conference tools. Such mediums can only achieve so much in terms of substantive communication. Maintaining a close physical proximity to the client can increase your firm’s ability to balance nearshoring, offshoring, or outsourcing with a personable approach. Remember that full immersion by a project manager or business analyst within a client’s operational space is impossible through teleconferencing.

Being local is more than just setting up a regional headquarters. There are several ways to achieve this. With multiple companies offering temporary office space or rentable desk space, there is no shortage of options. When dealing with various time zones consider the adjustment of working hours to align better with client needs. To truly craft a solution that augments existing operations or solves a business challenge your team must observe such processes in their natural state—and that means thinking creatively to ensure you’re clients feel as if they can reach you at the drop of a hat.

Consistent and dedicated team members

Being directly in the trenches, boutique firms can leverage their ability to not only be where the client needs them, but maintain that personable relationship for the entire project lifecycle. Communication is often the biggest challenge for successful client engagements, regardless of company size. When detailing the value of a new system or application, it helps to have the same team consistently working on a project. Business analysts and project managers who were involved in the predevelopment phase of a solution should be involved with live releases and socialization of the project to stakeholders.

From a client perspective, consistent faces are more dependable and trustworthy than a rotating line-up of representatives. Utilizing a consistent face as the arbiter of high-level technological implementations will help clients better understand and trust new systems and applications. Specifically with technology, communicating its value is a serious challenge. Talented developers and masses of impeccable code are not enough to successfully retain clients as a small boutique firm. Emphasizing the business value of such backend work is crucial for achieving long-term partnerships.

Communicating effective solutions for the long-term

Making the case to a client for expanding a project in order to achieve longer-term competitive advantage is a challenge for large and small firms alike. Initial projects may attend to the requirements for the near-term posited by the client, while not preparing them for the long haul three to five years down the road. There is always a chance that your own firm will notice a more successful strategy than the one anticipated by clients.

Smaller firms should capitalize on their own agility to reassess project scope and objectives as the industry evolves. A lot can happen in terms of technological innovations during the two year timeline for a comprehensive project such as a legacy system migration. While clients may not enjoy hearing that an anticipated end solution will not provide the competitive advantage it would have at the outset of development, your job as their trusted technological partner is to tell them why they need to adjust. Oftentimes, the optimal solution is not the most expedient or convenient.

Global organizations with thousands of member and hundreds of clients have the direct advantage of market share and seemingly never-ending resources. Yet countless businesses turn to smaller boutique firms to provide crucial IT services for their operational livelihood.

Often, businesses desire a trusted advisor rather than a vendor or consultant relationship confined by hierarchy and bureaucracy. With smaller firms, the ability to turn on a dime when projects appear to be growing sour is highly valued. Boutique firms that leverage their agility—as well as their valuable personnel to communicate and articulate issues in person—are worthy their weight in gold to companies in need of technological overhauls.

In an industry defined by loads of jargon and a constant cycle of innovation and disruption, it helps to have a technology partner with a human face who can pivot as fast as the market does.

Originally published in DMNews.