In my previous post, I discussed how important picking the right SaaS billing partner is to launching a successful billing solution. But picking the right partner is just the first of many steps. Today I will discuss project assurance and the critical role it plays in a successful implementation.
Most program or project leaders begin their software implementation by creating a master plan using any of the already available guidelines (i.e. Kurzweil or Zachman). In addition to scoping the project and defining that plan, deploying a project assurance methodology is a must as it empowers the leader to go beyond traditional project management barriers and provides the answers needed to ensure success. Project assurance begins with identifying and flushing out the strategic, tactical, and intangible elements necessary to meet the tasks at hand. It is well worth the added time and cost as assurance provides the team with confidence and peace of mind that the project is on the right track.
When implementing a project assurance plan for the launch of a Saas billing solution, consider the following six key factors:
- Engage executive sponsorship
Executive sponsorship must be present from start to finish. I have seen many projects or system implementations fail due to the lack of executive sponsorship. In my opinion it is the single most important element in making sure the project is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. When you have the support of senior management, it provides sufficient backing for the project from the earliest stages and commits engagement throughout the process to help achieve widespread adoption within the organization’s management. Executive sponsors drive the project towards success and deliver tangible support by committing their leadership and budget while removing any roadblocks.
- Place equal attention on managing personnel and technology
A new billing system isn’t only about implementing new technology – it’s also about implementing new processes. While most billing solutions have common features and functions, they each deploy processes and flows that are likely different than what is currently used in your business. Focusing only on the technology side of the solution will likely throw a “monkey wrench” in the implementation. It’s just as important to ensure the processes work as well as the technology and the resources managing those new processes are trained and equipped with the required skills.Deploying or integrating a SaaS solution often means adopting a multi-tenanted system based on industry standards and best practices. New software will definitely force an organization to review and amend existing business processes to adopt best practice where it can.
- Identify and engage key stakeholders
While executive sponsorship and leadership can lead the project to success, the key stakeholders are the influencers that sit at any level within the organization and have a major impact on the success or failure of a project.In most cases, SaaS billing implementation projects require significant change and need broad input and participation from key users across multiple departments to ensure:
- A bigger chance of designing and deploying business processes the right way from the beginning
- Buy-in and engaging resources result in effective adoption of the new processes
- A must have user acceptance testing (UAT) before and during the go-live
- Successful training, internal and external communications
- Recruit/Develop an internal Subject Matter Expert (SME)
Someone needs to know how to steer the boat when the captain leaves. The design and implementation teams will likely be composed of the vendor(s), possibly consultants, various stakeholders from around the business, and internal IT resources – all of who understand several components of the solution and processes. However, it is critical to identify, train, and empower an SME of the entire billing solution so when the vendor and consultants leave the project, someone within the business has the know how to support and extend the application.
- Set clear goals and targets then re-measure frequently
Without a clear vision of what the billing operation and processes are designed to achieve, it is inevitable that the project will go off course. Remember that the reason an organization decides to bring on a SaaS billing solution is to increase, extend, and improve the current system in order to provide a wider range of benefits to both the company and their customers.So which of the “promised” benefits are most critical to your company? It’s imperative that these are identified from the get-go and ranked in terms of which has the highest impact to the bottom line. Since you likely won’t be able to execute on all of them in the first phase of the project, select those that provide the greatest benefit. Once identified, develop the KPIs and communicate them across the organization. Make sure you have a strategy in place to ensure you attain your goals during implementation and after going live. One will only know how successful the project is by measuring KPI’s against the pre-defined targets.
- Communicate, promote, and drive usage across the company
More often than not, once the project implementation is complete, the focus on driving widespread adoption and usage of the system declines. Project resources are re-allocated and senior management’s attention has migrated to new business, leaving no ownership or accountability to ensure continuous adoption and proper usage. This is detrimental to the success of the project so it’s critical to develop and execute a plan that drives adoption across the company. After the system has been successfully running for a while, continue to measure usage driven by:
- Consistently communicating the KPIs to both internal and external users and encouraging suggested improvement if KPIs are not met
- Continued promotion of the solution to increase adoption both within the current impacted division and across the organization
While there are many factors to consider when implanting a SaaS billing solution, success depends on the inclusion of an extensive project assurance plan that includes these six critical components. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy (and common) for organizations to inadvertently ignore project assurance components to the detriment of the promised benefits they hope to achieve.
Majority of project leaders have experienced technology related issues within cloud (and non-cloud) software solutions. However, I strongly believe that today’s technologies and services, especially SaaS based ones, are delivering on the promise of real benefits more than ever before. The successful implementation of a SaaS solution is not solely dependent on the technology. The company must also effectively manage internal resources and changing processes while driving widespread adoption and usage across the company.