Working in the 21st century has made enterprise software, and more particularly in recent years, SaaS software, essential for companies to stay ahead of their competition. This software can come in many forms – whether it be for project management, customer relationship management, or if you’re a customer of NewsCred, managing your content marketing program. No matter what you’re buying the software for, here are some key rules to follow to make your experience software onboarding as smooth as possible.
1. Understand WHY the software was purchased
This may seem like a no brainer, but often times the people using the software on a day to day basis are not the same people who make the decision to buy it. If you find yourself in this situation, do yourself a favor and have a conversation with the decision maker and make sure you understand why they decided to purchase the software. What key problems are they trying to solve with the software? What other vendors were evaluated and why did they go with this one? Who do they expect to use the software day to day? Is it me?
As a member of NewsCred’s Customer Success team, I make sure to understand the role of each person I speak with and the value they expect to get from the product so that I tailor my training sessions to their specific needs.
2. Understand HOW success will be measured
Measuring success can be tricky, especially when you’re measuring for things like efficiency and risk which are less quantifiable than things like sales or leads. For project management efficiency, you can look for things like average project duration, on-time completion percentage, or even number of projects per person. The important thing is to know going into any vendor relationship what you hope to get out of it. At NewsCred, part of our onboarding process is to make sure to have clear, measurable success criteria for each client. We also don’t expect every single one of our customers to be content marketing experts – and that’s ok! We offer services to help customers define their program goals, strategy sessions for a more intimate one-on-one planning experience, and our proprietary #ThinkContent University online training courses and tools to help with all of this.
3. Understand WHO your key contacts are
Purchasing enterprise software is typically an incredibly lengthy process. For some organizations, it can take a year or longer to actually make a purchase. During the sales process, you’ll be talking with account executives, solutions engineers, legal representatives, and potentially even company management. And that is all BEFORE you sign the contract. Following that, you’ll be introduced to account managers, project managers, and a number of subject matter experts. It can be a lot to take in and certainly overwhelming at times. For the sake of efficiency, both the customer and the vendor should establish a single point of contact to handle day-to-day questions, issues, and escalations.
4. Understand WHAT the software can do for your organization
This point if closely tied to my first two, the key difference here is that these are the tangible outputs you expect to obtain from the software. This can be reports you expect the software to generate, how data gets entered into the software, what type of access you’ll have across different devices. These are all important questions to raise during the sales process – make sure you have a clear understanding of each. The biggest disservice you can do yourself is assuming that the software does something, make sure to ask and get a direct answer. You never want to start onboarding to the platform only to find out it doesn’t integrate with one of your critical systems.
5. Understand WHERE the software can be used
The next question you need to ask yourself is what type of access you’ll have to the software. I’ve worked with software that requires an installation locally on each user’s computer as well as web based apps that just require an internet connection. The latter certainly makes accessing the software much easier across devices, but also may limit offline access to data. Another thing you’ll want to consider is access across multiple devices – does the software offer a mobile site or app? If they do, is it optimized for a phone, tablet, or both? Typically, a mobile app offers limited functionality compared to the desktop or web app, so you’ll want to make sure what the intended use of the mobile offering is optimized.
6. Do an audit of technical requirements
With desktop applications, there will certainly be minimum system requirements around the operating system, processor, disk space, and memory which may also increase as the application upgrades. Some applications also require backend frameworks such as .NET or plugins to offer ease of use with other applications. These may be bundled with the installer itself or separate. The SaaS world simplifies things quite a bit, but you’ll still need to watch out for things like browser compatibility. This is especially true if you work in a larger or more regulated industry that tends to hold on to older versions of software for a while.
Even after doing all of these things, implementing enterprise software is no easy feat. There are lots of meetings that need to take place during the early stages of the project to ensure that the software is set up properly for the organization. Even the most prepared customer will run into unforeseen issues, timelines will get delayed, bugs will pop up, and there will be enhancements that need to be made to the product. Being prepared and asking the right questions up front will mitigate many of these risks, but most importantly it will eliminate the element of surprise deep into a project. Most vendors will help manage the process of implementing new software with a team of project managers who will guide you through the implementation process and provide product expertise. At NewsCred, our Customer Success team will not only manage your onboarding from contract signing to launch, but also be an ongoing resource to ensure your organization’s operations continue to run smoothly. We blend technical expertise and project management to ensure on time and successful delivery of all products and services.
As with anything in life, there’s no silver bullet that will make this an effortless process. However, with the right preparation and support from the vendor, you can make software implementation significantly less painful.
Andrew Loomis is an Operation Manager for NewsCred.