August 18, 2015
Proven Formula for SaaS Success
By: Beth Boettcher

A common question we get asked by clients embarking on their Human Capital Management (HCM) SaaS journey is “How do I successfully allocate the necessary resources to design our solution while still having the capacity and skills to run our business?” The answer may seem simple “Backfill! Go find people and backfill your roles.” We know that it is not easy (let’s be honest, it is nearly impossible). If it were easy, companies would go hire a bunch of people, backfill their critical resources, and then have all the brain power they need to shape the design of their solution (while running an optimized business).

Furthermore, we know that failing to have the appropriate commitments from the right people can slow down your project timelines, which can have a direct impact on project costs and can create re-work because resources make rash decisions when they finally find the time to focus on the solution design.

Within Accenture’s SaaS practice we have derived a proven formula that our clients, who have experienced it, chalk it up as one of the critical success factors to executing their strategic programs enabled by SaaS. Our approach minimizes backfilling while elevating the engagement of everyone involved in the HCM SaaS journey. Notably, Dave Menacho, a program lead for one of our SaaS engagements at a global vision care company, was at first skeptical of our approach. However, he trusted our formula, and jumped in feet first. Dave applauded the approach as “The single biggest contributing factor enabling one of the most successful programs the company has implemented.”

Our formula for answering the question is the combination of the following joint activities that we share with our clients to help make their programs (and their people) a huge success.

  1. Engage the right people: We work with our clients to identify a limited but critical group of empowered resources that are held accountable to drive the design decisions for the program. We typically call these individuals “business process owners” or “functional owners,” as they own a defined area (or areas) of the solution such as compensation or recruiting. By limiting resources, companies minimize the impact on their day-to-day operations. By empowering their people, companies give their rising leaders a chance to shine. By holding individuals accountable, people take ownership to make the right decisions, tapping into a network of identified experts that provide input and validate their thinking when needed—the experts come from HR, regions, or different lines of business. Depending on the stage of the project, business process owners could be engaged less than 20 percent of the time (e.g., during planning) and up to 100 percent of the time (e.g., during global design sessions and user acceptance tests). For the activities that require 100 percent dedication, we plan around key business events to confirm the business continues to run “as usual.”

  2. Align expectations: At the onset of the project, we clearly outline a week-by-week approach for how we will engage with the business process owners, confirming that they can meet their commitments and their commitments do not interfere with regular business operations. Put simply, we agree on a set of expectations—meetings are scheduled well in advance, business process owners communicate well in advance of meetings if they are unable to attend, and they find a delegate for any meeting they miss.

  3. Inform to accelerate: A critical part of our role as a consulting partner is providing business process owners with the necessary information, options, and associated implications of each option so that they can make rapid, well informed decisions. Rapid decision making is critical to keeping SaaS projects on track. Making well informed decisions is critical to alleviating solution re-work.

  4. Share the knowledge: We know that this whole engagement approach only works with extreme transparency. For our Workday implementations, we leverage our Accenture Client Enablement (ACE) tool to document key decisions we need our business process owners to make. We also document the necessary information for them to make the decisions. Once a decision is made, we clearly document the final agreement and the rationale for the decision. This approach allows us to avoid re-opening issues later in the project life cycle or “flip flopping” on decisions, which can impact project pace and price. We also provide all project stakeholders (including individuals who may be minimally engaged with the program but highly interested in the decisions) with regular access to the decisions, allowing them to stay informed and to challenge (where appropriate).

  5. Course Correct: Finally, we measure the pace at which we are making decisions and we compare that to our agreed upon deadlines. We also assess how many decisions are re-opened after they have been confirmed. We use these measures (leveraging dashboards within ACE) to determine when we need to course correct on our approach.

The outcomes at the end of the project result in more than simply answering the original question, which is quite tactical “how do I find the capacity to give my solution design and my day-to-day operations the proper attention?” When executed well, the approach can be highly impactful on the performance and confidence of the business process owners. In our experience, successful business process owners typically are promoted, given bigger roles when they move back to their dedicated “day job,” and serve as critical change agents as the program lives on in perpetuity. The confidence and pride they exude in the quality of their solution that benefits their entire enterprise becomes catalyst for ongoing success.

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