Insights

November 24, 2020

The Ultimate Onboarding Experience from the Client's Business Perspective

As a it outsourcing company, we understand your business and goals. Our team can get up to speed quickly with outsourcing software development.

Executive Overview

Whenever you start a new engagement with a New Outsourced Software Development Partner, you want to know that your new team can get up to speed as quickly as possible with the intricacies of your Business, as well as the Project.

This is very critical, because the longer this “Ramp-Up” process takes, the longer it is until you start gaining value out of the relationship and producing results for your Business. This process is naturally a two-way street and both Parties need to work together to:

  • Provide the new Team with details about the Business and how it works
  • Provide the new Team with details on the Key Requirements for this Project / Application
  • Have the Team introduce to your Business Sponsors and Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) themselves and their various Roles
  • Have the Partner identify who is your Relationship Manager, who will help guide the Onboarding Process, as well as handle any escalations or impediments
  • Define an overall Communication Plan

Understanding the Client’s Business

There are several major items that both you and your new Outsourced Project Team need to do early on to make this a highly successful relationship and ultimately a winning Project.

Project Team:  Background Research

Ideally your new Project Team should do their homework in advance of the Formal Kick-Off. This way they are prepared for you to fill-in the holes in their research, correct anything, as well as expand upon their information. This should include things like:

  • Reviewing information collected during the Sales Process
  • Reviewing your public Web-Site
  • Researching your Industry in general, as well as competitors
  • Reading any public reports, such as Annual Reports, Press Releases, Blog Articles, etc.

You:  Filling in the Blanks

Now that the Project Team has done some basic background research and has a general idea of your business and industry, it is now your turn to fill in the blanks and expand upon what they know.

We will go into more detail below, on what needs to be covered.  And this will easily take more than just one session.

Both:  Meeting and Creating a Relationship with Key Business Executives (Sponsors) and SME’s

During your Kick-Off Meeting with the Team, or shortly thereafter, it is extremely important for the Team to be introduced to your key Business Executives (Sponsors) and key Subject Matter Experts. This is very important, as especially the Team Leaders  need to start to form a working relationship with them, as they will need to ask them questions on specific requirements, get their feedback on various approaches, etc.

In addition, the stronger the relationship is between the Project Team and the Business, the easier the project will go overall, as both parties gain Trust in one another overtime. It is far easier to solve problems working together, once you have this relationship established, than not. And every Project will have some challenges during the course of the Project that needs to be overcome.

Both:  Importance of On-Site Visits

This may or may not be possible at the current time due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

However, this can be an extremely valuable exercise, as you get to meet some of your Team members in person and they get to see your operations and gain a better understanding of what you actually do. In addition, the Team members get to meet with the various Business Sponsors and SME’s who are involved directly in the project, which is always very valuable.

True Story:  Flying our ArkusNexus Team out to See our Operations

Several years ago, when I was the CIO of Garvin Promotion Group, we had hired Arkus-Nexus as our nearshore Partner. Like many businesses our operations were fairly complex and also somewhat unique as we processed millions of consumer rebate promotions for a wide variety of Clients in different industries.  And every marketing promotion was unique.

So, to help speed up their learning curve, we flew the 4 key leaders on our Arkus Team out to Scottsdale, AZ to visit our processing facility. They spent several days on site getting a better idea of how we process incoming claims, auditing for potential fraud, processing the rebate check, gift card, premium item, as well as watching our Customer Service call center in action.

This was an enormous value for our Arkusnexus Team and greatly helped them to understand how our business worked and what some of the challenges that we had, which needed to be solved.

--David Annis, formed CIO, Garvin Promotion Group

Understanding the Project and Application

Once you have covered the high level information about your Business, Industry, and how your business operates, now you can start drilling down into the details related to this specific Project / Application.

What Strategic Business Objective(s) does this Project Support?

While you may or may not have discussed this during the Sales Cycle, it is important for the Project Team to have an understanding of how this Project or Application fits into the Bigger Picture.

This can be further broken down by which Key Initiatives that the Project or Application supports.

Again, it's all about giving your new Project Team context, so they better understand what the desired outcome is of what they are building, enhancing, or supporting for you. Thus, the more detail you can share with them, the better their understanding will be, and ultimately the better they will be able to suggest improvements, enhancements, or even taking a different (potentially better) approach to accomplishing your objectives.

What are the Specific Objectives of the Project or Application?

Now that we are starting to get into the Project specific details your Project needs to better understand the Who, What, When, Why, How of the Project:

  • Who are going to be the Primary Users of the Application?
  • What are they going to use the Application For?
  • What are the major Modules?  Describe each one and Stack Rank them in Priority Order.
  • Priority 1 - Module A… and this is what it does, and who uses it
  • Priority 2 - Module B… and this is what is does, and who uses it
  • Etc.
  • Do we have a set target date that we need to hit?  When is it?
  • Why will the targeted audience want to use the Application?  
  • Why are they attracted or interested in using it?  
  • Even if this is an Internal facing application, we still want to answer Why they want to use the New application, instead of the way they have been doing business already.
  • Both of these points touch on How are we going to Brand or Market our new Application either externally or internally.
  • How will we work together to accomplish this Application successfully?

Product Management and Brand Marketing (External App)

If you have a Product Management or Brand Marketing Team, they will be very important to involve in providing the answers above to the Project Team. Ultimately, they serve as the Voice of the Customer and what they need and want from the Application.

They determine the Business Scope / Requirements / Modules, Prioritization, and Business Needs.  

The Project Team and your own IT Staff will need to provide any additional Technical Requirements or Constraints that will impact the Application (Security, Technical Environment, Processes, Redundancy, Scalability, Software Tools, etc.) and the Project Schedule.

However at the end of the day, it is the Responsibility of Product Management and Brand Management to “Own” the Business Requirements and take responsibility for this. The Project Team and your Internal IT Staff are their builders.

Word of Caution - Be Careful of Allowing Marketing & Sales to Get Too Far Out in Front of their Skis

Most Business Executives do not understand all of the details that are required to produce a complex software application with also a high degree of quality.  And add to this anyone in Sales or Marketing wants to start selling the new Fancy and Flashy Application as soon as they can, instead of selling what we have today, because it could drive new business.

While this is true, there is always a risk that if you start selling a new Software Application that is not “Fully Baked”, that Sales can end up selling Vaporware, which leads to loss of Clients, loss of revenue, and worse damage to your Brand Image.

It is not the fault of Sales, Marketing or other Business Executives for not understanding in detail what we do as IT Professionals. That is our responsibility, and as such we always need to have the Managerial Courage to tell the Business, the Application isn’t ready and that this is our best estimate as to when it will be ready.

If we don’t do this, then there is a very high risk of Project Failure, or worse the complete failure of the Business, because they had went “All In” over the muted concerns or objections of the Project Team, or worse the lack thereof.

Speak Up, before the problem becomes serious.

Who is Your Partner Relationship Manager or Client Care Director?

While not a member of your Project Team directly, this is a very important role both during the initial Ramp-Up period for the Project, as well as long term. This individual will typically be either an Executive or Manager within either an Operations Group or a Client Care Group.

It is there responsibility to:

  • Assist the Project Team in getting ramped up quickly at the start of the Project
  • Solve any problems or impediments, that the Project Manager (a.k.a. Scrum Master) can not resolve on their own
  • They will also typically conduct a Quarterly Business Review with your team, on the overall status of the Project and Engagement
  • They also serve as your primary Executive Contact, if you need to discuss any concerns, issues, or changes to the Project, such as requesting additional resources, etc.

Communication Plan

It is important to discuss and agree upon the frequency of regular meetings, as well as the most effective communication method or tool for everyone involved in the project. In most cases, the Project Team will adapt to whatever communication method you prefer. In other cases, with very large Service Providers, this may be set based on what tools they already use.

Communication Methods

Different individuals prefer to use different methods, particularly in order to organize their work and keep all important things in one place to make it easy for them.  So, for the key Roles on both the Project Team and within the Business / IT side, you will need to define and preferably document this.

  • E-mail
  • Instant Messaging (Slack, Google Chat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc.)
  • Phone Call
  • Video Conference (Zoom, Skype, Go To Meeting, Google Hangout, etc.)
  • Etc.

Primary Team Communication Method

Decide which method will be the Primary Communication Method for everyone, when sending messages or questions to the entire group. And decide whether or not you will create specific Channels or Sub-Teams that only apply to a subset of individuals that are involved in the Project.

You need to define this, so that everyone knows that if we are talking about this Project, that this is where we can find all of the latest messages back and forth about the Project.

Project Status Information and Documentation

Just as important is to decide where you are going to “Post” and all Project Status Information and Documentation. Again you want to pick a single place that is accessible by everyone involved in the Project.  It won’t work if only ½ of the combined team can get access or review the information.

Typically this can be some form of a Wiki Site (like Confluence) or a Document Repository or Collaboration System. Whichever Tool you select, it should allow for Attachments, Rich Text Editor, Sections on a Document, Tracking Changes, Versioning, and Basic Security around who can view or edit which postings / documents.

Standard Project Meetings

Next, you need to define the frequency, day, and time of any Standard Project Meetings, along with who is expected to attend, and who is optional. Some examples include:

  • Daily Standups
  • What time?
  • Who is mandatory?
  • Method?
  • Who is the Facilitator?  Typically the Project Manager / Scrum Master
  • Project (Sprint) Planning:
  • How Frequently (every 2 Weeks?)
  • What day of the Week, and what time?
  • Who is mandatory?
  • Method?
  • Who is the Facilitator?  Typically the Project Manager / Scrum Master
  • Regular Demonstrations of Work (End of the Sprint)
  • How Frequently (every 2 Weeks?)
  • What day of the Week, and what time?
  • Who is mandatory?
  • Method?
  • Who is the Facilitator?  Typically the Project Manager / Scrum Master
  • Business Requirements Review & Prioritization (Backlog Grooming)
  • How Frequently (every 2 Weeks?)
  • What day of the Week, and what time?
  • Who is mandatory?
  • Method?
  • Who is the Facilitator?  Typically the Business Analyst / Product Owner

Summary

In this Blog Article we have covered:

  • The need for the Project Team to understand your Business
  • The need for everyone involved to understand the Goals, Objectives, Product Management Perspective and Communications for the Project

From an Executive Business perspective each of these areas is Critical when initially kicking off and starting a Project / Engagement. And the faster that everyone has a better understanding of the details and develops a relationship with each other, ultimately this gives you a greater chance of having a hugely successful project that meets your Business Objectives.

We hope that you have enjoyed this Blog Article.

Thank you, David Annis.

Case Study from Arkusnexus
David Annis
David is a VP and Agile Coach within ArkusNexus, having served in multiple CIO, VP of Software Development roles. He assists our Sales, Marketing, and Operations Teams on critical initiatives.
dannis@arkusnexus.com
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