3 Keys to Effectively Onboarding SaaS Solutions — From the Very Start

If customers are going to implement a renewable, pay-as-you-go solution, they’ll want to know they’re working with someone they can trust.


The growing dominance of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions is becoming increasingly hard to deny in our modern business landscape. More companies are adopting SaaS solutions every day, and the global SaaS market is expected to reach $716.52 billion by 2028 (with a CAGR of 27.5% from 2021-2028).

How can software developers capitalize on this moment — in a way that leads to repeatable, reliable business success?

With SaaS solutions, it’s not as simple as setting it and forgetting it; one cannot simply sell a solution and move on with their business. In fact, the SaaS sales process more closely resembles a deeply committed relationship, where software providers (SPs) and system integrators (SIs) embody and embrace a trusted advisor role for their customers. Because, after all, if customers are going to implement a renewable, pay-as-you-go cloud solution, they’ll want to know they’re working with someone they can trust.

And proving yourself starts way before the solution is “plugged in” — it begins the moment the onboarding process does. Customers who struggle to implement a solution are far less likely to renew their subscriptions down the line, and value must be clear and apparent every step of the way.

So, here are three tips for SPs and SIs — that I’ve honed from my time working in cloud success — when approaching a SaaS sale.

1. Selling the Right Thing, Not Everything

Like in most areas of life, success starts with listening. To serve customers best, SPs and SIs must understand the ins and outs of customers’ business challenges — from the outset — so that they can properly guide the purchase and implementation process. That means understanding the customer’s industry, the latest trends affecting their business, the expected impact of a SaaS solution on their bottom line, and much more. What outcomes do they want to drive through a SaaS implementation? How will such an investment benefit their overall processes and efficiencies?

It’s all critical because — unlike in the old world, where you might be able to sell one big product and leave town — you must prove your value repeatedly to be successful in the SaaS world. If a customer doesn’t like or need the solution you’re providing, they just won’t renew. The transactional world of yesterday is being abandoned for a relational world of tomorrow, and SPs and SIs must position themselves to be the ones business leaders want to be in a relationship with. This means selling customers the products they truly need, so they can reach the value they desire quickly and effectively — on a foundation that’s poised to excel for years to come.

Look at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The leading technology solution provider built on its SAP Business Technology Platform to enable expedited access to timely order information for customers, partners and employees. Now, it can quickly and accurately pull meaningful, actionable information when operating its business — ensuring the delivery of next-generation customer interactions and better customer experiences overall.

2. Never Going in the Deep End Alone

Whether it’s working with a system integrator or an actual software vendor, customers must ensure a subject matter expert is there to guide them through the SaaS implementation — and, frankly, solution selection — process. A singular focus on who will offer the lowest price, or perhaps on a well-known name, is a dangerous and short-sighted approach. One that may come with a trade-off when it comes to personal connection or industry-specific expertise.

Remember, all in all, that the business of consulting is the business of people. And whichever SI or vendor a customer works with should exemplify that axiom. When done well, investing in technology should feel like investing in yourself. A good partner — one with vision and speed to value — will help customers feel exactly that way, and more so, feel increasingly comfortable betting on themselves going forward.

I think of the story of agricultural cooperative Blue Diamond Growers, who worked with Accenture and The Silicon Partners Inc. to build advanced solutions designed to streamline and improve operations in support of its more than 3,000 cooperative members. Through Accenture’s deep technology expertise and The Silicon Partners’ migration toolkit, Blue Diamond Growers was able to improve countless aspects of its business, including demand and supply planning, production planning and overall user experience. Theirs is a strong example of what effective partnership and guidance look like in action.

3. Making a Plan with Vision — Focused on Value

The significance of cloud SaaS technology may be undeniable, but that doesn’t mean that value is realized every time a solution is implemented. In fact, it can be far too easy to get caught up in minutiae during an onboarding process and lose sight of what exactly it is you’re setting out to achieve for the business.

Customers should make sure their implementation plans make space for things like ample and clear communication; detailed training processes; and clear and actionable change management guidelines. By fully visualizing how things will roll out — and how you’ll gain the maximum amount of value in the shortest amount of time — you can pave a smoother road to success in the end. Ask yourself: Where should investment begin? What are the mission-critical growth areas? Where can we be intentional about the adoption and consumption of cloud software?

I recently worked with a telecommunications customer that truly exemplified the importance of some of these questions. Their legacy technology environment consisted of multiple systems for demand and supply, replenishment, inventory, and sales and operation planning. By focusing on improved responsiveness, consistency and effectiveness, the company was able to design and enact a technology strategy that improved supply chain management and streamlined its overall business operations. In other words, by pursuing a deeper understanding of itself — and asking the right questions — the company was able to deliver an impactful plan with deep value.

A Constant State of Continuous Improvement

While implementation is often an overlooked and underthought part of the process, it is still only the beginning. SPs, SIs and their customers must continuously provide and gather feedback as the journey plays out. That way, the overall roadmap, SaaS provision processes and overall product can remain constantly improving, via conversation and co-innovation.

Remember, this is a partnership. It takes openness, care and dedication to build one that really works and serves both sides well. For as long as you both shall live.

Craig Davis

Craig Davis is Head of Cloud Success Services at SAP North America.

Zebra Workstation Connect
Craig Davis
Craig Davis is Head of Cloud Success Services at SAP North America.