With the meteoric rise of SaaS based solutions over last 5-6 years, the technology industry has seen a tectonic shift with new entrants grabbing more and more clients from old and established players. The same is very much true for Sales Force Automation space as well where the customer churn rate of big players are increasing day by day. There are some good reasons why companies are switching from their tried and tested SFA vendors:
- There are now plenty of equally good (if not better) options available nowadays. Most importantly they are solving the same problem for clients at much lower price providing a huge cost benefit at a time when companies are facing the heat of economic slow-down.
- Many of these new SFA solutions are coming up with cutting edge features and technology innovations which are lacking in many of the old solutions. Companies have realized that what matters to them more is an advanced solution rather than a deck showing big brand logos.
- Another important factor is much more client-centric approach of the new age SFA vendors thanks to a dedicated Customer Success team. Companies have realized the benefits of having an SFA partner that takes full ownership of implementation and adoption rather than getting hands off after selling the user licenses.
However, the concern of getting into a messy transition often makes the client skeptical about switching to a new SFA solution. The concerns are not only genuine but are of different nature which makes that decision even more difficult to take. Let’s highlight some of the very pertinent reasons for such anxiety:
- Any software transition will be resisted by users across the board as they are already used to a solution and not very willing to come out of their comfort zones. With such resistance, user adoption is always a challenge which can potentially jeopardize the entire initiative.
- The people responsible for finalizing a new SFA solution will always have a dilemma in their mind that whether all the existing features will work properly in the new solution or not. No doubt they have experienced BD pitches where tall promises are met only to realize during implementation that there are gaps in what they had ordered and what they were delivered.
- In many cases the SFA solution is already integrated with larger IT landscape of the organization including ERP, HRMS, DMS or any other application. Over a period of sustained effort, the desired unification of information flow has been achieved and there would be hardly any nerve which would not be anxious to start it all over again from scratch.
- Finally, rolling out a full-fledged SFA transition means involvement of stakeholders from different departments, functions, units and sub-units. Different people have different role to play – some can explain logic of a particular feature, some can explain the integration details, some can provide clarity on master data and so on. Getting all such people on-boarded and ensuring full cooperation from all of them is also a challenge which plays in the mind of the decision makers.
But the fun lies in solving these challenges only so that users (and company as a whole) benefit from a much advanced and cost-effective Sales Force Automation solution. With our experience in successfully dealing with transition from some large and globally renowned SFA players over last few years, we thought of penning down some of the best practices one must follow to ensure a hassle free SFA transition:
- Plan Early: Start all your due diligence, vendor meetings and any other necessary pre-work for solution finalization early enough to avoid any system shutdown because of expiry of the existing solution licenses. This will not only give you more time to select the most appropriate solution but will also provide enough time to you and to the new partner to complete a successful roll-out and to take care of any unanticipated delay arising from whatever reason.
- Plan in Phases: When you are making a software transition, not only you would need all existing features to work smoothly, but you would also need to gather feedback in terms of new requirements from different stakeholders and also need to evaluate additional features that you are getting off-the-shelf from the new solution. The final list could be quite exhaustive, and you will make a great mistake if you plan to implement them all at one go. It’s always wise to get the prioritization done and roll-out features in phases.
- Appoint a SPOC: As we discussed earlier, a large-scale transition requires involvement of multiple stakeholders from within the organization and at times from external vendors as well. A single Point of Contact, ideally a senior person in the hierarchy, from the client side should drive all such engagements among new SFA partner and all other internal or external stakeholders. Lack of this can actually ruin the entire transition as the new SFA partner cannot exercise kind of authority which is required in these initial discussions.
- Ensure Documentation: Following standard processes and doing proper documentation is always worth spending the extra effort. Some of the important documents which must be prepared and signed off by relevant stakeholders are Scope of Work, Business Requirement Document, Unit test Plan, Integration Test Plan etc. During preparation and review of these documents, we actually discover a lot of critical points which would have been otherwise missed leading to a not-so-perfect implementation.
- Strong Coordination with Internal IT Team: When the existing SFA solution is tightly integrated with overall IT eco-system of the company, success of the transition is heavily dependent on the client IT team. Their must be a strong coordination and proactive communication channel in order to provide full clarity related to integration requirements, existing API details, existing system behavior, testing and troubleshooting etc.
- Plan for a Pilot: Even with best efforts from all teams and stakeholders, there could be a possibility that a feature is missed out or is designed in a way which doesn’t fit perfectly with the regular call flow of the sales team. Hence, it is always better to run a pilot with a set of selected users before going for a big bang launch. This will help in collating important user feedback before the actual roll-out and also, to implement as many feedback as possible in the first launch.
- Plan for User Training & Hyper Care Support: Exhaustive user training covering all mobile app and web portal workflows / reports is very crucial for a successful transition. Different training modes including class-room, online, training ppt, training video etc. should be made available for users to adopt quickly to the new solution. Also, a highly responsive hyper-care support through different channels (such as call, chat, email etc.) is extremely helpful in ironing out initial hiccups leading to a smooth transition.