The key aspect of the new client onboarding process during co-operation in providing IT services22 September 2015
The modern, digitised world does not mean just dynamically changing technology, strategy and business; it may also, and in particular, mean the rapidly changing and broadly understood cultures (forming on both the micro- and macro-scale). As opposed to any other period in the history of the world, the influence and domination of a culture referred to as the client-centric culture is evident in the 21st century. This culture, in turn, should determine the way in which service providers and clients are to model and collate the area of their mutual co-operation.
Onboarding as the key process in the interaction between the Service Provider and the Client
If there is any phase of working with the client, which I could assess as the key one and as the one that is likely to radiate and influence every single element of the subsequent relation between the Service Provider and the Client, it would undoubtedly be the onboarding phase.
Given that the sales cycle and contract execution complete a certain stage in the negotiations with the client – the phase in question can certainly be classified as highly theoretical (as it involves assumptions, expectations, the planning of high-level activities, etc.). This phase is immediately followed by the most pivotal stage among all the stages I have already encountered and still continue to encounter on the entire map of interactions with the client. This very stage is the onboarding process for a new client because it taps into the pure practice of co-operation between both parties.
What is onboarding?
It is a representation of an internal project that transforms into action after completing the theoretical phase (of “prototyping” and setting the “rules of the game”). At the same time, this is the first opportunity for both parties to be able to build trust (the importance of which cannot be overestimated in any form of co-operation between two entities): it is when what was contractually agreed upon between the service provider and the client will now be translated into practice and reflected in it while the Service Delivery Team will be providing IT services.
Key roles and the scope of responsibility in the client onboarding process
The clear and transparent creation of roles during the onboarding phase is an element of critical importance. One of the critical roles that will be needed from the very beginning is the one which has been known in the industry as Customer Success Manager, i.e. a specialist who will be assigned to an existing client right after the completion of the contract execution phase. Such a person will be the “owner” of the onboarding process on the part of the service provider and will be responsible for guiding the new client through this phase successfully. The CSM will also be responsible for:
– holding meetings with the client (direct/online);
– documenting the roles present in the client’s structures;
– identifying the client’s key employees and defining their roles during this phase.
The CSM will be responsible for providing information on the scope of client-oriented undertakings in the onboarding process. Another responsibility of the CSM will also be to introduce the Project Manager (a person responsible for the technical course of the onboarding phase), who will directly take on the role concerning the allocation of engineers and the control over the key milestones in the project on the part of the provider.
What stages can the onboarding process consist of?
The key stages of the onboarding process may contain such key elements as:
– Defining the scope of the services provided;
– Installing and configuring the operating environments;
– Preparing documentation;
– Quality Assurance (QA);
Once these stages are completed, there is another very significant element that forms part of the onboarding process, namely the tuning phase on both sides: the Client and the Service Provider.
The onboarding phase is a bit like playing chess. The game makes sense and is satisfying on condition that both parties not only know the rules under which the pieces move on the board, but also strictly observe these rules under all circumstances. The client onboarding process shows in a micro-scale whether both the Service Provider and the Client are ready to co-operate with each other (and they get their only chance to verify it!). A properly created micro-culture of work and interaction between the Service Provider and the Client ensures success in the form of safe co-operation based on trust and quality. A properly conducted new client onboarding process leads to a long-term relationship and makes it possible to build more complex solutions or vice versa. If the service provider does not take care to guide both their own team and the client’s team through the onboarding phase properly, it may turn out that not only do they lose the possibility of developing their services on the part of their client (by implementing the project with a considerable amount of randomness involved), but they are also likely to be unable to expand in the market with their service portfolio for anyone at all (because such co-operation will pose considerable risk to both parties).
PS #1 You can find my article also in the IT INDUSTRY LEADERS Business Report that will be published by Gazeta Finansowa later on this week, concerning: “The key aspect of the new client onboarding process during co-operation in providing IT services”.
PS #2 Curious about JCommerce practical approach when onboarding new client? I’m more than happy to get in touch with you and share our thoughts & experience. Meet us at one of our offices in Poland!