According to a 2020 industry survey, most SaaS businesses view new customer acquisition as their primary growth activity, followed by (in order of importance) client renewals, upselling, and add-on sales.
There was no mention whatsoever of project implementation – which is perplexing as the implementation process is critical to a SaaS provider’s growth strategy.
Think about it this way: implementation is a company’s first chance to shine. However, a messy implementation can ruin all the good will—and excitement—created during the initial sales presentation.
A typical SaaS implementation can take anywhere from three to 18 months, and that’s if everything goes exactly as planned. But when a poorly managed implementation turns into a nightmare, this will not only upset the customer, but negatively impact the provider’s growth prospects going forward. In this business, bad reviews travel fast.
What you likely already know about SaaS implementation
Depending on the scope, most enterprise SaaS implementations are notoriously complex. That’s why it’s important to consider the various steps involved.
For example, clients typically require some of their existing on-premises software applications to run in parallel with the new SaaS software. The greater the number of project integration points, the more API work that must be fit into the implementation schedule.
Project categories like security and Fintech require multiple gateways and multiple apps feeding or extracting data. That means there’s more work, more apps, and more people involved. And, there’s typically a specific, step-by-step order in which each action or task must be executed. If one step in the process falls behind, it creates a domino effect of missed deadlines.
Further, some tasks can only be performed by authorized technical consultants who are very busy (that means they’re hard to get) and very expensive.
Using a CRM like Salesforce (SFDC) and or an relational database like Oracle as examples—if you need to connect your SaaS app to a client environment that is storing and pulling data from an Oracle database and pushing results to SFDC, you may need to hire authorized technicians trained in both software types who also understand how each software is going to be employed at the customer level.
A missed deadline, therefore, costs you dearly because one milestone can’t be completed until the one before it is finished. If the SFDC and Oracle database consultants are scheduled to take over at a certain point in the implementation timeline, the schedule had better be accurate —otherwise you might not get them back for another two months.
Granted, most schedules have some wiggle room built in, but a missed deadline can create an expensive domino effect.
How the right project management software can help
Using project management software created specifically for SaaS applications can help make implementations smooth, efficient, and repeatable. Software companies can realize revenue more quickly and are able to scale and standardize future implementations.
In a centralized work platform built for SaaS projects, all participants—including authorized vendors, clients, and third parties—have real-time visibility into due dates, task interdependencies, milestones, and phases.
That’s key because the most common SaaS implementation delay typically occurs when a major participant’s approval is needed but the individual doesn’t realize it. With the right project management software, overdue items—which slow progress significantly — are flagged automatically, thereby eliminating awkward calls to team members who are about to miss an important deadline.
No more chasing spreadsheets and digging through endless email chains to get an up-to-date snapshot of the project's status. Prior to and even during a status meeting, a real-time view into project status is available for all participants to see.
The benefits of a single source of truth
Your implementation thinking shouldn’t end when the implementation does. The right project management software will offer you an audit trail of problem processes, patterns, people, and allows you to create efficiencies and best practices from lessons learned.
A platform that captures real data to show you the history of past project timeframes and schedules can help you revise/create new deadlines based on facts. Understanding past task time frames and completion schedules leads to future project success by helping you (and the client) avoid setting unrealistic deadlines in the first place.
Remember, your customer made a big bet, committing substantial time and money to a new SaaS software program. For the individual(s) who ultimately decided to go with you, there’s an awful lot on the line. An implementation riddled with delays may damage their reputation internally and might even have career implications. And that will surely trickle down to your reputation and ultimately larger implications for your business.
At the end of the day, the client (and his/her internal customers) will be assessing your implementation—what it took to get the system up and running—not your product. That assessment can be the difference between a happy client and one who churns even before they get to try your software.
Considering how cutthroat today’s SaaS market has become, that’s where the rubber really meets the road.
Learn how the right project management software can get your SaaS implementations on track. Get our Quick Guide to Solving the 9 Biggest SaaS Implementation Problems.