Great software firms succeed and grow by always looking for new ways to improve. Over thousands of implementations, we identified the must-haves to create a scalable implementation process.
Baton is focused on the implementation process because it’s a critical driver of growth—helping your business keep the upward momentum going while also keeping your reputation intact. Since we explored why the implementation process is so critical to your business in our last blog (check it out here if you missed it), it’s time to dig deeper with a point-by-point overview of how a winning implementation team operates—and how implementation project management software plays a key role in driving this success.
Must-Have #1: Employ an implementation framework with standardized playbooks
Clients view your implementation team as the experts who will guide them through the onboarding process. To build on that confidence and be viewed as the project’s “voice of authority,” you must establish a clear and consistent onboarding methodology.
Begin by developing a set of discrete digital playbooks—which contain templates with the primary components of your implementation process—for every type of customer you serve. Playbooks provide implementation project information that’s visible, actionable, and predictable, thereby helping you launch on time, every time, and adhere to the project schedule, regardless of the client type.
With today’s project management software, you can create detailed, step-by- step templates that illustrate exactly how and when each step of the deployment will unfold. This will drive consistency among your project managers and give the customer a clear view of the sequence of steps that must be executed to complete the onboarding on time.
Once your basic playbook documentation—processes, best practices, and workflows—is complete, you can begin to develop variations by client or industry type. This will allow you to incorporate, for example, specialized roles for your onboarding teams for certain types of clients.
Must-Have #2: Establish/outline individual roles
Playbooks also can also be used to outline the role of each team player— including those on the client side—which helps them better understand their responsibilities and how critical they are to the project’s success.
If possible, open the kick-off meeting with a Gantt chart so customers can quickly see that any delays in their deliverables will significantly delay the project overall. A Gantt chart will also help uncover any client-side conflicts in scheduling, milestone sequencing, or deliverables, right at the outset.
Next, detail what’s expected/needed from each participant. Doing so improves project outcomes, enhances your implementation team’s productivity, and creates a more satisfying work environment for everyone. You can also outline consultant and vendor roles, how they fit and when they’ll be brought in. Net result: Everyone understands both their role and when they’ll be called upon to act before the project begins.
Must-Have #3: Develop playbooks by customer type
As your company grows and its implementations become more sophisticated, you’ll likely move into different industries with different onboarding needs. At this point, you can customize your playbooks and templates by customer type and/or industry, which allows you to plan for and ultimately improve the way you handle specific client-side issues.
For example, an onboarding sequence for a software company requiring one API connection and one data ingest will be dramatically different from an enterprise level offering that involves multiple integrations to numerous APYs and 20 data sources.
Or perhaps you find enterprise level User Acceptance Testing (UAT) usually creates a delay due to the sheer number of parties involved. It might make sense then to divide the next implementation’s testing and approval processes into two separate UAT sessions. Having fewer individuals involved in each session could accelerate the overall approval process.
Establishing this level of detail in your implementation playbooks leads to project clarity because both project managers and customers alike know exactly what to expect, right at the outset. Further, you can track how similar projects differ and make changes to optimize future deliveries and further increase margins.
Must-Have #4: Embrace consistent and clear communications
An implementation, like any relationship, typically begins on a high note, with everyone excited and filled with hope. But things inevitably go wrong.
To maintain that initial client confidence—and your team’s voice of authority— you must establish a consistent communications process right from the start. A weekly status report, presented on the same day and time, will allow all parties to see progress week over week, identify/discuss potential scheduling risks and enhance predictability.
Make “risks” a key part of the agenda. Ask, “Are there any risks we should note?” at every meeting. Making that part of your communications process means a small fire will be identified and extinguished long before it becomes an eight- alarm inferno.
A key client-side team member’s upcoming vacation, for example, might be overlooked—but could delay an important approval if it’s not identified and addressed early on. If there’s a mid-project personnel change, your weekly status reports make for a seamless handoff. And dissatisfied client issues are more easily addressed and resolved when communications are automatically archived and available for reference.