Getting the scope of your customer onboarding projects right

Scoping right is walking a fine line between ambition and moderation, but it’s a line you can walk well if you focus on value delivery
May 28, 2021
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Krishna Kumar
“All of that?” 
“That’s all”? 

These are the reactions you can expect if you’ve got your project’s scoping wrong. If the scope of your customer onboarding and/or implementation project is too broad, you run the risk of delaying time to value, overwhelming and overworking the team, and customers abandoning your project. Add to this the scope creep that is common in longer projects, and you have a sub-optimal onboarding experience at best, and a failed one at worst. 

On the other hand, if your scope is too conservative, it’s hard to show enough ROI to your customers—making the benefits of adoption unclear and underwhelming. There’s also the risk of losing momentum after the initial delivery.

As tricky as it may be, it is essential to pin down the scope before you begin customer onboarding—it sets both the tone and the course for the rest of the project. 

Before we go ahead, let’s look at what scoping means in a customer onboarding project. Scoping is the process of determining the project goals, deliverables, features, functions, processes, and timelines required to onboard customers and get them to use your product. 

Start strong to finish strong: take the lead on scoping

One of the biggest challenges with scoping is that customers often have arbitrary requirements based on how it’s currently or has always been done—or vague ones because they simply are not experts on your product. Whatever the case, it’s important that you take the lead on scoping as the onboarding/implementation expert. No one knows your product/service and the risks and problems customers face as well as you do. 

The best way to look at scoping

Scoping, in most cases, becomes all about requirements and defending against scope creep instead of focusing on user research and data. As a result, what you end up with is a list of features that may not be exciting or useful for the end-users. 

Getting scoping right is walking a fine line between ambition and moderation, but it’s a line you can walk well if you focus on one thing: value-driven delivery. It’s the best way to ensure that you make no assumptions, focus only on things that add value, and avoid the temptation to chase vanity metrics. 

One of the key characteristics of value-driven delivery is the focus on early delivery of results to keep customers engaged and invested. 

How you can implement scoping with a focus on value delivery

Here are some pointers on how you can do scope your onboarding/implementation process with a value and ROI focus: 

1. Ask ‘why’ before ‘what’

If there were one defining element of value-driven scoping, it would be the focus on the ‘why’ before the ‘what’.

Requirements are only a means to an end in project management. Merely focusing on them does not guarantee success. Instead, start by understanding the problem that the customer is trying to solve. From there, establish the project goals and ensure that your customer is aligned on those goals. 

2. Work on ROI-based outcomes and prioritization

After you map the goals to tangible ROIs for specific outcomes, stagger the ROI as you break it down into 30-60-90 day periods. An excellent way to do this is to use a lean prioritization matrix. 

Shortlist and prioritize quick wins from all the ROI-related outcomes you have identified. An excellent way to identify a quick win is by looking at low-effort, low-risk, high-value/impact outcomes. 

Start with the quick wins, evaluate the big bets with the customer and consider if you want to take a gradual rollout or a full-blown one — given the risk attached to them. The same approach can be used for the ‘maybe’ outcomes, identify subsets of users who could benefit from them, and stagger them accordingly.  

Make sure you baseline the current state as part of the scoping so that you can look at measuring value delivered through the scope of the onboarding. For example, 1x–2x ROI in 60–90 days and 3x–5x over the first 3–4 quarters are reasonable commitments for enterprise customers. 

Irit Eizips, CEO, CSM Practice, shares some solid recommendations and best practices for the First Value Delivery approach to scoping in this podcast.

3. Focus on incremental changes, not disruptive ones

Assess where the customer is on your onboarding maturity scale and let them know where they stand to set realistic expectations right at the start. If they’re currently at a 0, your scope shouldn’t try to take them to 2. This is also the best time to see whether you should opt for a gradual rollout or a full-blown one. 

As Irit suggests in her podcast, it might be helpful to use your product/service to improve a current process for your customer and ensure that customers are familiar and comfortable with the tool/technology before more extensive changes follow in the later stages.

Four customer onboarding strategies for happy end users

4. Ensure the scope covers change management and training 

While value realization can help prioritize outcomes, remember that scoping isn’t only about features. It needs to take into account migration, change management, training, testing, rollout, etc. As part of change management, understand what changes for the customer: is it only a process that changes, or does it include both the process and tool? This is the time to look at how you will approach training for these elements. 

5. Document and track everything 

Once you have arrived at the project’s scope, make sure that this is centrally recorded—with the activities, resources, timelines, milestones, deliverables, and the project’s constraints or boundaries. All of this essential information should be documented in a scope statement or included in the Statement of Work. Make sure there is alignment on the goals and the scope by getting a sign-off on it. Don't allow for scope creep, unless you are sure it adds tangible value to the project.

What next?

Once your customer onboarding project commences, the best way to manage scope is to have a tool that gives you a unified and collaborative workspace with real-time data. This way, both you and your customers have shared and clear visibility of progress, so you can catch issues and scope creep early. It’s also the best way to ensure transparency and accountability at both ends. Spreadsheets and presentations often fall short on this count. Rocketlane is a customer onboarding platform that helps you have everything you ever need in one place: tasks, teams, checklists, files, processes, and more. Start your free trial today.

More resources

  1. How to build a customer onboarding framework
  2. The Customer Onboarding Maturity Model
  3. Value Realization for SaaS Businesses: Framework and Tools

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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