Any business project entails requirements, risks, stakeholders, teams, good news, bad news, budgets, and deadlines. Now, take all of this and multiply by two. Then, add in the challenges of a nascent partnership, new people, and unfamiliar systems and processes. The result? A customer onboarding and implementation project.
With so many variables, it’s no surprise that enterprise customer onboarding projects tend to go wrong. As tricky as they can be, there will only be more of them, considering the amount of money riding on enterprise software. Global enterprise software spending is expected to reach about $500 billion this year.
When you combine the newness of onboarding with project management challenges, you have a recipe for some big problems. Fortunately, most of them are preventable. Through our interactions with customer onboarding and implementation teams, we narrowed down the top mistakes that onboarding teams make.
Here are the top ten areas where onboarding and implementation projects falter and ideas to streamline and fix them.
A common issue in project management is that stakeholders are not on the same page when it comes to requirements, goals, commitments, and decisions made in a project. This is mostly because handoff calls are not exhaustive.
One of the ways to increase your chances of succeeding early and avoiding confusion is through deliberate documentation.
Here’s how you can practice deliberate documentation for handoffs:
Gathering requirements is a standard part of most projects, but there is a nuance that is often missed. This step becomes all about just gathering requirements rather than identifying the problems the customer is looking to solve—with little to no effort to digging deeper and understand better.
Some common mistakes at this stage include:
Here’s what you can do to get this step right:
We’ve all been part of projects where the executive sponsor shows up at the kickoff meeting, talks about how important the project is, and is never to be seen after. While we’re often happy with them showing up, the fact that they didn’t stay long enough or stay involved later sends a message to the team: The project is not important enough to justify a few hours of this executive’s time.
The other challenge with most mid-market or enterprise companies is this: Your customers’ urgency and intent to use your solution often do not match the time commitments from their end. There's always a new fire they are attending to, and you’re often left navigating bottlenecks and convincing their team members. To make things harder, implementation projects typically have multiple stakeholders with different and conflicting interests and requirements.
However, as hard as they may be, here are a few things you have to do:
Communication breakdown is one of the most common issues plaguing implementations. While we know how early and accurate expectation setting goes a long way in solving problems, it is easy to forget to do it.
But this is a bigger issue for onboarding projects. Here’s why: The more left out your customer feels or, the less they understand your project, the more likely they will be to micromanage or force things to go their way or how they have always been.
Here are some of the most easily fixable communication mistakes:
What you can do:
We're sure you’ve heard versions of these before:
"We're waiting for our internal security review of your integration approach."
"Our information security team will get back with recommendations on your solution."
How can you plan around this and prevent weeks of delay from just one department? Here are some ideas:
Customers often want premature integrations with an extensive set of tools they use inside their organization. For example, they may want your chat tool to integrate with their CRM, marketing automation and ABM tool, resource planning and forecasting tools, etc.
You need to align these to the ROI-based goals agreed upon. This is why getting an agreement on the ROI is important to avoid any confusion around priorities and value delivered.
You must always work with the key customer side counterparts to push for those that optimize for faster time to value. A good way to do this is an ROI matrix with values against each integration to ensure the right ones are picked first.
Here are some other steps you must take to handle integrations smoothly:
Migrating customer legacy data is often not easy. Many organizations have old and complicated systems. It is a complex activity whose scope and plan must be created at the project’s beginning. You’d also need to define the approach: Will you load the data in one go or multiple batches? How will you handle data validation and acceptance criteria?
Here are our recommendations for handling migrations and exports:
Most organizations still subscribe to the “build it and they will come” school of thought. Chances are that your customers do too.
No matter how impactful the change would be for your customer, if their employees don’t understand it or see value in it, you have your work cut out for you.
Here are just some of the most common change management mistakes and how you can avoid them:
With the right effort in planning communication and training, you can make the process smoother for everyone.
With complex customer onboarding projects, the biggest risk you run is that of running different activities in silos. Such projects generate many documents, leave a trail of emails, and involve multiple meetings, stakeholders, and tasks. You simply cannot afford to lose any data: on progress, deliverables, and milestones. Relying purely on emails or using the wrong tools can spiral into chaos.
You need a strong system-driven approach and the right tools to support it. While choosing tools, opt for those that integrate as much as possible and facilitate the right balance of collaboration and visibility. For instance, your executive sponsor should be able to see, in a snapshot, where the project currently is. Or that your team should be able to communicate internally and privately within the team and with the customer on the same task or document. This is the best way for information to flow freely through both teams.
We’ve designed Rocketlane to ensure accountability and transparency for your customer, and usability and efficiency for your onboarding team. It places a system-driven approach at the center of implementation and provides a unified framework for you to work on. This eliminates the need for multiple tools so that you can plan, document, communicate, demonstrate progress, generate status reports, and collaborate across internal and customer teams—all in one place.
Customer onboarding teams know more than anyone else the importance of value realization in any customer journey. However, most onboarding teams underestimate the value of demonstrating incremental progress.
While periodic status reports are a must-have as part of your onboarding, demos can go a long way in sustaining customer interest and building value realization. Make sure regular and scheduled demos are part of your customer onboarding plans at key milestones. This way, milestones don’t just remain tick boxes on a long checklist but are tangible markers of progress.
As daunting as the challenge may sometimes seem, it’s important to note how almost all of the issues we’ve spoken about arise from a breakdown in the fundamentals: planning, communication, collaboration, and a value-focused mindset. With eyes set on these basics, ears to the ground, and the right tools to work with, your onboarding and implementation team can handle any challenge thrown at them.
If you’d like to see how Rocketlane can help you deliver a delightful onboarding experience each time, sign up for a demo.