:: By Bob Feghali ::
Technologists in the know understand how important picking the right SaaS billing partner is to launching a successful billing solution. Selecting the right partner is just the first of many steps. Often underestimated is project assurance and the critical role it plays to ensure success.
In addition to scoping the project and defining a plan, deploying a project assurance methodology is a must to overcome traditional project management barriers. Project assurance begins with identifying and fleshing out the strategic, tactical and intangible elements necessary to meet the tasks at hand. It is well worth the added time and cost to provide 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:
1. Engage executive sponsorship
Executive sponsorship must be present from start to finish. I have seen many projects or systems implementations fail due to lack of leadership buy in. It is the single most important element in aligning with an organization’s strategic goals. When you have the support of senior management, you have sufficient backing for the project from the earliest stages and a commitment to help achieve widespread adoption within the organization. Sponsorship not only drives the project toward success but also helps deter budgetary roadblocks.
2. 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, including the training of personnel. While most billing solutions have common features and functions, each deploys processes and flows that are different from each other, and from what is currently used in the 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 that 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 practices where it can.
3. Identify and engage key stakeholders
While executive sponsorship can lead the project to success, key stakeholders at any level within the organization 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 better chance of designing and deploying business processes optimally from the beginning;
• Buy-in and engagement from resources for effective adoption of the new processes
• A must-have user acceptance testing (UAT) before and during the go-live
• Successful training and internal and external communications
4. 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 expertise to support and extend the application.
5. 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 a business 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 start and ranked by 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. One way to do this is to develop the KPIs (key performance indicators) 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 pre-defined targets.
6. 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 shifts to new business, leaving less ownership and accountability to ensure continuous adoption and proper usage. In order to drive adoption across the company, continue to encourage and measure usage by:
== > Consistently communicating the KPIs to both internal and external users and encouraging suggested improvement if KPIs are not met.
== > Continually promoting of the solution to increase adoption both within the current impacted division and across the organization.
While there are many factors to consider when launching SaaS billing, victory is dependent upon 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.
Today’s technologies and services, especially SaaS based ones, are delivering on their promises. 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.
Bob Feghali has over 30 years of experience in information technology. Currently he consults with the eCommerce and SaaS billing industries, where he often teams up with Aria Systems to educate businesses on recurring revenue. Previously he was the vice president of global SMB eCommerce operations for Pitney Bowes, where he launched digital products focused on serving the communications, marketing and growth needs for small and medium businesses (SMBs) and consumers globally.