THE COST OF FAILED IMPLEMENTATIONS
Updated: Apr 9
“The best companies can seamlessly transition between sales, professional services and customer success.”
ADAM MAZE, Associate Partner - Garwood Solutions (Precursive Playbook, Traditional Services Delivery is Dead, 2021)
They call it the ‘new battleground in Professional Services’. How can services teams not only deliver on what Sales have promised but continue to show value and achieve outcomes for the customer as a team? In our latest playbook this is clearly mapped out by our contributors, derived by experiences of selling and delivering SaaS solutions in a range of sectors across SMB, mid-market and enterprise.
LEAKY BUCKETS DON'T FLOAT
This proverb depicts how some of the best companies are thinking about professional services, they don’t want to spend a lot of time and money acquiring customers, only for them not to realize the value and churn. The financial impact of such a failure is pretty significant. To understand the true value of Professional Services, let’s explore what happens if the implementation is delayed. For example, the impact of a one-month delay for a SaaS business in the HR industry, where an average order is $50,000, can be seen having an impact on revenue, profit and cashflow as below:
As onboarding and implementation of your solution directly affects your Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), it becomes imperative to get timely and successful delivery.
WHAT DOES GOOD EXECUTION LOOK LIKE?
In today’s outcomes-driven world, it is really important for this to start with the pre-sales and delivery team working together pre contract-win. How do they do that?
Standardize onboarding packages: Have a set of packages based on software modules or the size & scale of your client. Including tolerances defined for work that is out of scope, it is also important to be clear on where scope can ‘creep’ i.e. increase based on previous experience, therefore identify these areas early and address them with the client.
Agree on a cadence for delivery: Complex implementations will require delivery teams to come in at the right point and work hand-in-glove with pre-sales. And not just be a blind handover from pre-sales to delivery once the contract is won.
Draft a Statement of Work (SoW): Where Pre-sales work & delivery work together but predominantly delivery owned. This should clearly call out assumptions, client dependencies, risk and issues.
Forecast Margin & PS Revenue: This will often form a part of the deal approval process. It is a crucial step pre-contract signature, to know what the projected revenue or margin is going to be for the project and then needs to be tracked throughout the life of the project.
Transition into onboarding/implementation: A clear, formal process of transition needs to be established between the pre-sales, sales, delivery teams and the customer. A knowledge-sharing culture needs to be established to make this work. The right tools and repositories need to be set up and made available to all parties, so there is a single source of truth, clearly outlining what has been sold to the customer.
HOW DO YOU OPTIMIZE DELIVERY TO AVOID FAILURE?
So, the contract is done and everyone is ready for the kick-off meeting with the senior stakeholders and the Project Management team. What do you need? Here’s a handy kick-off checklist:
Recap the business case to the customer - do not ask them to repeat what they’ve already told you. By presenting your understanding of their challenges, you may find some things have changed over time.
Set the right altitude - There are likely to be senior members of the organization present, so this is where to set high-level expectations, build relationships, build confidence in the approach and present a high-level plan. Its not intended to be a detailed planning meeting, so make sure to pitch at the right level.
Define roles and responsibilities on both sides - A clear understanding of the level of commitment you see from the customer’s side is really important. This is good insight into how seriously the customer is taking it. And how well expectations are being managed, of the investment in time they need to put into the delivery. Customer Success teams will also need to shadow certain levels of the services team engagement to understand what has been built and why.
Understand how the customer defines value and what their outcome is - This is critical. Delivery teams really need to understand the customer’s why. Too often the focus is on the what and the how, without understanding the why. They also need to check whether that has changed during the post-sales process. If you don’t deliver on the why, on the outcome, you’re effectively building in churn into your onboarding process.
Agree on the delivery plan including key dependencies - A high-level plan needs to be backed up by a detailed plan, and this detailed plan needs to have the key dependencies between the delivery team and the customer. This needs to be a live document, not something to be agreed on once and pinned away. It needs to be maintained throughout the project otherwise you won't know where you are in terms of delivery timelines.
Agree on the cadence of meetings - This is a ‘hygiene factor’ but is an important step. Whether its daily standups, weekly PM meetings, or monthly committee meetings, get it into diaries early on. Keep the customer up-to-date on resources available to them including support, training and agree on the best ways to provide ongoing value to them.
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE ITS SUCCESSFUL THROUGHOUT?
Weekly status reports: A light touch document, sent out prior to the weekly project management meeting. This covers what was achieved in the previous week, what is planned to be achieved next week, any key risk and issues, any dependencies, the budget status and burn rates. If set up correctly, the value well justifies the investment in time.
Scope Management: Scope is inevitably something that will change over time. When understanding the client’s business, there will be gaps in the solution, areas that haven't been thought about when SoW was put together, so through the PM meetings, it is important to be open and upfront with the customer - let them know about any options early on and not left surprised when it’s too late.
Change Management: Sometimes a customer may not have the right framework in place to make a decision about whether they want to increase the scope, this, in turn, may cause an increase in timelines and cost. Therefore the services team need to help the customer set up a framework or change management process, especially in Enterprises, where there might be differing opinions within the organization, whether a change in scope is required.
Non Functional Planning - Make sure to keep on top of aspects such as Environment Planning, Data Migration, Training, Security and Permissions, Business Change and Adoption as they are all critical. Not necessarily kept front of mind, because everyone is focused on getting the shiny new functionality that they've been shown. But these things can derail the project if they’re not planned for and tracked