This guest post is written by Ivan Ramirez, Entrepreneur, Investor, Advisor and restless Product Guy. He is the Former VP of Groupon Goods for APAC and Director of Global Product at Groupon. His experience in startups, product development, p&l management, operations, and technology make him a great source of information on how to handle a wide range of business challenges. This article offers recommendations on how to come up with a practical process to address some of the challenges enterprise service companies face when on-boarding new clients.
As simple as some of these things may seem, all startups, even large enterprises have challenges around operational processes to streamline something like customer on-boarding.
Recently, I received an email with the following question:
Our current launch process seems to be too simplistic for our enterprise clients, we need a more sophisticated approach to get the projects started and finished when we sign somebody. Do we know anyone who can help us create a complex but predictable and repeatable launch procedure?
I understand where this question stems from. As an entrepreneur I have been in the same situation, where I wanted to impress our enterprise clients by adding a level of sophistication to our business processes. However, with time I have learned that simplicity is the highest form of sophistication, not some complicated process put together by a Six Sigma black belt.
I encourage us to think about processes is the simplest form possible. There is a slogan on wall street that says “Liquidity Begets Liquidity”. I like to say that “Simplicity Begets Simplicity”. The simpler we make things, the more elegant and sophisticated processes get. No disrespect to the SIx Sigma guys, but come on, do we really need a whole industry to simplify processes?
Here are some of the challenges described to me by the sender of the email I received:
- Taking longer than expected to launch
- Lack of engagement from the client side
- No way to hold client accountable for their side
- Launch process touches several groups within the client organisation (content, marketing, design, business, etc.)
- Custom integration work is needed from both us and client side
These are just a few of the challenges that can be faced in an on-boarding process. These will vary based on your technology and how much you have been able to productize your tech, which can be quite challenging in some industries given legacy systems and fragmented data sources.
Here is the recommendations I made to this company, and now sharing with you:
Client Onboarding Process
- Use an application like SmartSheet (SS) and create an on-boarding template used to onboard new clients.
Why I love SmartSheet (SS)
SmartSheet is a SaaS based app that I like to describe as an excel spreadsheet on steroids. You can create sections, add documentation to the line items, assign stakeholders both internally and externally, set up auto alerts, due dates, etc. which helps you stay on top of any major project.
- List out all the steps (even the smallest ones) needed to integrate a new client. Within SS you can create sections and nest tasks/steps within a specific section.
- In the template leave a section for custom integration work that needs to be done for a client. This will vary depending on the client.
- Designate an on-boarding lead, specialist, whatever you want to call it, whose main role is to work with internal and external (client) resources to make sure the on-boarding comes in on schedule.
- Once contracting is complete, introduce the on-boarding lead to the clients project manager/lead so they can go over the SS, identify stakeholders and TOGETHER set completion dates.
- Do the same with your internal resources and based on these inputs, you will have an on-boarding completion date that are clear to both you and the client.
- Depending on the on-boarding goal, have daily or weekly stands (no longer than 15 minutes). Stands are calls where both your side and the client side have the SmartSheet open, and where you go through each of the line items that are open, falling behind, blockers, etc., and take the appropriate actions to stay on track, push back or forward the completion date.
The client will appreciate the transparency the SS provides. It allows them to see what dates you are completing certain things and gives them a solid date they can report up to their upper management with any level of detail needed. In SS you can add documentation and keep all your notes centralised in a single place which helps you explain any setbacks or share great news on coming in ahead of schedule.
SS is what I have found to be the most helpful, but I have also used Excel or Google Docs for this process as well. Use whatever you’re comfortable with. Depending on how you structure the process, a tool like Excel or Google docs is pretty mouldable. If the time comes where you see your self not being able to do something with Excel or Google docs, then explore SS.
I hope this helps, and remember “Simplicity Begets Simplicity”.