Technology Deployment. For many companies, the mere mention of these two words can send hearts racing and bring on cold sweats. The fact is, even with massive advancements in technology today, rolling out new systems or tools is still rarely easy.
That’s especially true for a transformative go-to-market models like those for subscription commerce. As more companies consider adding subscription models to their portfolio, they begin to understand how difficult it is to bring in the technology needed to support them. The fact is, B2B subscription commerce is a complex undertaking, particularly when working with third-party providers that have relationships spanning multiple people, organizations, channels, and devices. Deployment mistakes can not only slow you down, they also can end up pushing your costs much higher than you planned. And, of course, they can damage your customer’s experience, possibly enough to drive some customers away.
With that in mind, companies need to be aware of the pitfalls that can arise when their organizations begin the deployment process. Here are the four biggest mistakes to look out for and what to do instead.
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1. Taking a "big-bang" approach
Trying to implement everything all at once may shorten your implementation timeline, but it also can significantly increase project risk, complexity, and time-to-value.
Instead: Identify and prioritize the must-have functionality required to launch a minimally viable implementation and capture nice-to-have functionality in a backlog for later implementations.
2. Writing custom code instead of using standard functionality
If the past 30 years have taught us anything, it’s that customizing a new system or tool to adapt to your organization is a bad idea. While writing custom code to extend your commerce platform might seem like the way to go to get a perfect fit, the more you customize the software to your specific needs, the more difficult and time-consuming it is to adopt new features and maintain the platform in the future.
Instead: Plan to satisfy business requirements by using standard platform functionality, changing your company’s processes where needed. In general, it’s also important to stick with industry standards instead of custom development or obscure, proprietary code to avoid unnecessary integrations and costs.
3. Underestimating the importance of testing
Of course, everyone wants to make sure new functionality works properly before rolling it out. That’s why you test it first. But if you get to the end of your implementation and are ready to begin testing but don’t have your test data ready, you’ll probably run into significant delays. Worse, you could be tempted to take shortcuts that could lead to a premature launch that spells trouble when things go live.
Instead: Include milestones for development of robust test plans and data. Investing the time and resources in building automated test plans that can be evolved over time for critical user flows, which will help you launch with the quality of experience your customers will expect and avoid glitches that could cost you sales and relationships.
4. Not considering other dependencies
If your subscription commerce launch requires a deployment or integration connections to with other systems, do you have these milestones tracked in your launch plan? If not, you could hit a major delay as you wait for dependent systems to be connected, deployed or tested.
Instead: As part of your project plan, you’ll should establish key milestones and due dates for these systems. Make sure you’ve identified and documented all dependencies on your critical path and that you’ve aligned your launch plans accordingly. It’ll save you a lot of time and headaches in the end and will lead to a much smoother deployment.
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We launched first with small and medium, next quarter will be our corporate segment, and then we want to onboard existing customers that are directly managed.
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Avoiding the Pitfalls: VodafoneZiggo
You might be thinking right now that these best practices are obvious and intuitive. And in many ways, they are. But you’d also be surprised how often they’re forgotten during major deployments.
One company that has taken these practices to heart—and benefited accordingly—is VodafoneZiggo, a Dutch company offering fixed, mobile, and integrated communication and entertainment services to consumers and businesses. It’s a joint venture of Liberty Global, the biggest international TV and broadband internet company, and Vodafone Group, one of the world’s largest telecommunication companies.
When VodafoneZiggo evaluated its options for a subscription commerce platform to meet its digital strategy needs, it put ease of migration at the top of the list. As Sander Nederkoorn, a senior product manager at the company, points out, “Migration is always quite a project.”
That's one reason why the team chose AppDirect, a solution that offered the standard functionality the company would need and, thus, wouldn’t require any customization. As Nederkoorn points out, “If I compare it to the former platform that we used, which was quite static, we already see with AppDirect that we can easily onboard new applications so we can expand the portfolio and start bundling propositions, not just within the marketplace, but also with core products that we have. Compared with the previous platform, where we only had three business SKUs available, we now we have more than 50 and can easily expand.”
The fact that other Vodafone operating companies had already deployed the AppDirect platform successfully was also a key consideration. The first AppDirect-powered Vodafone Digital Marketplace was launched in Italy in 2016, and since then, marketplaces have been rolled out across key Vodafone geographies, including Germany and Spain.
Even so, when the time came to complete a sizable migration of Microsoft users from its legacy system to the AppDirect platform, Nederkoorn's team made taking a phased approach a core part of its migration strategy. “We did the migration in batches as a tactical choice,” he says. “We launched first with small and medium, next quarter will be our corporate segment, and then we want to onboard existing customers that are directly managed.” With this approach, VodafoneZiggo is poised to see significant time and cost savings, both in the short term and at scale.
As VodafoneZiggo’s experience shows, with the right best practices in place from the beginning, you can have a smooth subscription commerce platform deployment that avoids the pitfalls that can trap those less prepared. And everyone’s happier for it.
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