Your customer onboarding and implementation could be transformational for your organization if you have already laid the runway for your onboarding and implementation team to take off!
What does laying that runway look like, you ask? Pre-implementation or pre-implementation work, of course!
Pre-implementation, as the name suggests, comes before implementing a project or system. It lays the groundwork for onboarding and implementation teams to take over or start executing their responsibilities. This includes procuring requirements, devising a project plan, and recognizing the resources needed to execute the project successfully.
Well, it depends! Various factors can determine the need for pre-implementation in your organization: the complexity of your product or service, the average time to onboard and implement your product or service, etc. If you have different bundles for SMB, midmarket, and enterprise SaaS customers, the segment becomes a function of complexity.
In a recent Preflight conversation, onboarding, implementation, and CS practitioners weighed in on pre-implementation work and the questions an organization has to ask themselves when the need for pre-implementation arises:
When it comes to pre-implementation work, it is essential that you delineate and define the roles and responsibilities for the post-sales organization. To ensure a successful onboarding, implementation, and transformational customer experience, it is important to have a comprehensive checklist of technical, in-product, and other key requirements that customers must complete during the pre-implementation phase. Taking the time to prepare for implementation adequately will result in customers getting to first value faster, saving time, and enabling personalized implementation that better meets their needs.
We have a very specific pre-implementation checklist, but it's mostly technical and product-related, so there's no negotiation with the customer. They have to do it, or we cannot move on to the implementation phase. The expectation is set during kickoff, and we present the checklist toward the end of the deck. We identify who will be responsible for specific steps and associate them with target dates during the kickoff. Then we discussed the cadence ( it could be weekly, bi-weekly, or sometimes multiple times a week, depending on the account). In our organization, it makes sense for the CSM to own pre-implementation after the knowledge transfer from the AE: We have freemiums, and there are configurations that need to be set up that are managed by the AE and SEs on our side.
I speak entirely for our own org and how it's structured–anything pre-sales is the AE/SE, and post-sales falls under CSM responsibilities. That said, I know CSMs get involved in pre-sales discussions in some ways, so I think it depends on the org.
We have a freemium tier where some of this stuff can 10000% be completed before onboarding kicks off: Technical items such as setting up a Salesforce integration, for example. Our enterprise clients have various internal stakeholders involved with authorizing the product to be connected to Salesforce, which can cause weeks of delays.
In theory, this can be worked on before the deal closure (even if it's just getting their IT team in the mix early, which could be a checklist item).
I think SE is the right way to go! I would want to keep everything a CSM could own off of their key responsibilities. So the AE works on getting everyone in the org on the same page and getting the right people involved, and the SE executes!
There needs to be some Customer Success inputs pre-closure. However, dedicated CSMs are often a perk of paying for the enterprise version of the product. I am reluctant to get too involved too early. If the AE communicates the value of the exercise in the later stages of a sale, it will work! And lack of interest in preparing for onboarding at that stage is an entirely different signal.
Often times, there's a big disconnect between Sales and Customer Success. Clarifying and measuring goals, sharing key success factors, and obtaining commitments from the account's decision-making unit via Customer Success Planning (CSP) are crucial to avoiding the usual disconnect and accelerating TTV. Pre-closure CSP would be essential for ensuring implementation folks engage and complete the pre-work you propose.
If you have ideas, suggestions, and questions for the larger customer onboarding, implementation, and CS community, we’d love to have you join Preflight Community and share it with our members!
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