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Enabling Speed to Value - The Importance of Change Management in SaaS World

I’ve noticed a lot of blogging and knowledge exchange recently centered around the elements of a successful Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployment, so I thought it relevant to provide our perspective on this topic. I frequently hear about “speed to value” when discussing SaaS. The notion of “speed to value,” however, is not a new concept in IT. Any organization embarking on an enterprise software implementation or an upgrade effort strives to plan and execute their project to get the most valuable or “game-changing” capabilities in place in the shortest feasible amount of time. The end goal, of course, is to start realizing the planned benefits and the promised return on investment (ROI) as soon as possible. For as much as this concept is a rallying point at the beginning of projects, it often becomes a measure of failure by the end of them.

With the advent of SaaS solutions, software vendors such as Salesforce.com, Taleo and Workday are providing a whole new avenue of driving “speed to value” by delivering solutions that are not “customizable” – one of the common gotchas of enterprise software – but are instead “configurable” to best support an organizations needs. Configurability is one of the primary concepts behind SaaS solutions, where the software cannot be re-coded or customized to support an organization’s unique nuances (one of our favorites always being, “ I’d rather see a field on the right of the page instead of the left….”). Rather, the software inherently reflects standardized “best business practices” and offers flexibility in its setup to support various alternatives for how those standardized business process will function (i.e., who approves what and under what circumstances). Configurability, along with other championing concepts such as no software code to upgrade, makes “speed to value” a more realizable concept in the SaaS world.

Whether implementing traditional packaged software (such as ERP) or SaaS solutions, neither will truly deliver the value so quickly sought if due consideration is not given to the “people” element of the equation. We’ve seen this all too many times in traditional ERP implementations – a great functional or technical effort is a complete failure because the end users and other stakeholders are not involved in the process and don’t know how to use the solution. They are left with a feeling of disillusion and, as a result, they either reject the new solution or do not leverage it as intended. The same has the potential to be true for SaaS solution deployments. If the appropriate effort and attention isn’t applied to managing the change for the impacted stakeholders and entire user community, then the benefits and ROI will not be realized no matter how quickly the implementation is conducted.

With this concept of the “people” component in mind, some basic things we try to do when deploying SaaS solutions include:

  • Ensure strategic goals and objectives are aligned with actual outcomes. Too often this is where deployments get off track and lose their perceived value (e.g., the solution was supposed to deliver “x” but we wound up getting “y”, etc). Ensuring that goals are clearly identified up front, expectations are continuously managed and the outcome is aligned to the objectives is key. This is a clear but often missed opportunity to build support and adoption around a solution.
  • Help the user community understand “what is in it for them” with the change. While the goals of the organization are always present, the impact to the individual also has to be known. The value a new solution provides will ultimately be judged by those who use it. Helping users understand how a new solution can make their job easier or free them up to do other mission-oriented tasks is a critical message to personalize.
  • Establish a communication strategy and over-deliver on it. Different audiences may require different messaging delivered across different mediums to educate and re-enforce concepts. An all too common problem we see is deployments where employees just don’t know the schedule of events or how to provide their input because they weren’t on the receiving end of communications. A well-thought out communication approach — identifying those key audiences and what information is most critical to convey — is the cornerstone for building an understanding and acceptance of new solutions and better enabling the benefits they provide.

In the end, the concept of “speed to value” is very real and very achievable for SaaS deployments. We’ve been fortunate to be part of some remarkable SaaS deployments over the last few years with our partners at Workday – deployments that have really created significant benefits for the customer. The key to these successful deployments has been (and will always be) ensuring Change Management is an equal part of the equation. Ignoring this critical “people” component can greatly diminish or even negate the benefits sought by a SaaS deployment. Remember that perceived value is a buy-in concept, and (just like beauty) ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder!

TAGS: Best Practices, Change Management, Software-as-a-Service, Workday