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- November 14, 2016
- Amit Duvedi
- Business Strategy
Have you ever had to practice what you preach?
I have always been on the sales side of the business, supporting sales teams by conducting ROI and total cost of ownership analyses for big enterprise software deployments. Last year, I was charged with buying a software tool for our company’s sales force. Since we’ve been engaged in a sales conversation internally and in the marketplace about the movement to Value as a Service, this was my chance to practice what we preach and experience VaaS as a customer.
Value as a Service is all about the end user getting ongoing, measurable value from process and / or technology improvements. Uber and Lyft are great examples. You get where you want to go, without worrying about gas, parking, traffic, paying or tipping.
While my project was relatively small in terms of cost and scope, it opened up my eyes to what it takes to get tangible business value from software. You can’t just fill out your RFP and buy a list of features and assume value will happen.
The first and most important thing you have to do is define what value means in the context of your project and your organization, and figure out how you’ll measure it. With Uber or Lyft, all you have to do is know where you want to go and when you want to get there. It’s considerably more difficult with an enterprise software implementation.
In our case, defining value was the hardest part of the exercise, but it was a forcing function for everything that followed. Once you have value defined, you have a bullseye to aim at, and that brings clarity to all subsequent decisions.
In our case, we wanted this tool to ultimately impact two metrics – sales pipeline and revenue. We quickly realized that it would be hard to isolate and measure the impact of this tool, as there are many other tools, processes and initiatives in place to affect those same metrics. So, we decided to take a two-step approach.
For the near term, we decided to focus on time to value. Within that, we chose “adoption by all sales people within three months” as a tangible, measurable success goal. We also agreed that “adoption by all” needed to happen based on ease of use, versus a corporate, top-down mandate.
We knew that once we got willing adoption from our sales force, there would be a positive impact on pipeline and revenue, even if it would be hard to quantify. Now we had our bullseye: Fast time to value through adoption by all within three months.
Another key principal of Value as a Service, especially with enterprise technology, is that it’s achieved in collaboration between the customer, vendors and implementation partners. There are always challenges with technology. Overcoming these challenges depends on the vendors that you choose and their ability and willingness to work with you.
With a SaaS vendor, you know that they have skin in the game because they want to earn the subscription renewal. And, because it’s a cloud solution, if any problems come up, the whole fix-test-deploy cycle is much faster. You don’t have to wait for the next big update. When you’re aiming for adoption by all, this is very important. If a problem festers for too long, people lose faith, you lose momentum, and that hurts adoption and overall success.
We looked at a few SaaS vendors and ultimately chose one whose core values and execution capabilities we felt were most aligned with our success goal.
Once we inked the deal, the first order of business was configuring the tool. Our mentality was that since we had bought a cloud tool, we should leverage the design and the best practices of our cloud solution provider as much as possible. Even though we felt like kids in a candy shop looking at all the possible features and functions we could add, we resisted that temptation and designed our first version to be simple and extremely easy to use.
We had our largest in- person sales event coming up just a few weeks after purchasing the tool. We knew that add-ons and customizations would introduce unknowns, which meant extra time for testing and troubleshooting—time we didn’t have. The last thing we wanted was to launch a version that didn’t perform well, especially because of our tight timeline and our focus on user adoption.
We also felt that another challenge of adding custom features from the get-go is that until lots of people start using the tool and providing feedback, it’s hard to understand all the different user needs. If we threw in in a lot of bells and whistles, would they be the right ones? Or would they make it more complicated and harder to use?
With that in mind, we made our 1.0 version clean and easy, requiring just a couple of data entries and clicks to get useful insights and an output that sales people could share with prospects.
The launch plan
No matter how great the technology is, you can’t assume that if you build it they will come. If adoption by all is your goal, you need to launch with a bit of fanfare.
Give the tool a name that makes sense and is maybe even catchy. Then reach out to your target audience to create awareness. We used company email to announce the launch, and demoed the tool and talked about use cases in the weekly sales meeting. We also created a short YouTube training video to share.
After we were up and running for a few weeks, we got a couple of sales reps who are fans of the tool to do a fireside chat for the rest of the team. The next phase of our launch plan is to roll out a certification program.
Maintain executive support
We had executive support for the project from the head of sales, but our launch got an unexpected boost from the CEO, who saw the tool demonstrated in the sales meeting. He logged in and was able to navigate through it without any help. He saw its value to sales people, so he gave it a ringing endorsement.
You can’t always count on that, but you do need support from executive champions throughout the process, not just when you’re making your business case. One way to keep the project front and center with executive sponsors and end users is to provide usage metrics, along with any results you’re seeing at regular intervals, so we made sure to do that.
Our value journey
I’m pleased to report that we achieved our short-term goal of adoption by all within three months. Now we have the buy in that we need to continuously deliver VaaS. We are now working on correlating tool usage to pipeline growth. We are also working with our solution provider to enhance only those specific capabilities of the tool that will help us grow pipeline and impact revenue.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is the Value as a Service is an ongoing cycle: Identify and work toward value goals; realize value; evaluate, optimize, and set new goals. It’s a journey that never ends.