Using partnerships for successful Cloud apps adoption

15 May 2024 4 min. read
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In the adoption phase, CIOs need to make full use of their relationships with SaaS vendors to gain buy-in and optimise IT investments. Jean de Villiers and Tim Eclair-Heath, respective Chief Customer Officer and Global VP of Success Engineering of Unit4, explain how firms can maximise partnerships to improve their cloud adoption.

Not enough is written about the adoption phase of innovative technologies. The media obsesses over them, analysts ponder the implications for vendors, while stock market watchers score companies up or down based on perceptions of product launches. But the stage where users actually get to grips with the latest tech? Barely a whisper from commentators and analysts…

That situation is a big net negative, especially for Cloud-based applications, as the adoption curve is critical to the success of both sellers and buyers. You can build the cleverest solution in the world but if users aren’t keen because it’s unfamiliar, complex, or just too smart, then nobody wins. It’s therefore in the interests of all parties that a sizeable investment of time and effort is made to ensure the adoption phase is as smooth and mutually beneficial as possible.

Using partnerships for successful Cloud apps adoption

With Cloud applications, you’re going to be mostly using what comes with the subscription. One of the main reasons for Cloud success is that it doesn’t demand customers and their partners endlessly tweak and customise. Better by far to use simple API-based links to other software, and to utilise preconfigured tools and workflows that have been based on an enormous amount of time in research and development and then tested in the real world with customers.

What Cloud customers should end up with, is a refined service based on dynamic feedback and usability monitoring. The vendor knows exactly what is being used, how, where and, just as important, what functionality doesn’t get utilised or has proven to be ineffective.

The CIO role: Talk, then talk some more

So, from a vendor point of view, what is the best way for a CIO to encourage widespread adoption of the latest services and upgrades? The short answer is to collaborate with them.

“Technology alone is not enough,” Steve Jobs once said, and he was right of course. We need to understand human habits and preferences. That’s why Customer Success Management has become so important for Cloud companies. They know that if they can’t keep customers happy, those customers can easily walk away because there are few of the sticky attachments of the legacy, on-premises software world. Software delivery and deployment these days can no longer be a case of hit-and-run or ‘throw it over the wall and speak to you on the renewal date’.

But the Customer Success principle has to be a two-way deal with the customer meeting the vendor halfway. If you’re unsure about something, unhappy or curious, then speak. You’re effectively paying for the privilege and it’s in the interests of the vendor for you to be fully engaged.

The chances are that the concerns or worries that you’re harbouring aren’t unique. Your vendor will have seen these issues many times over the course of engagements and should be there to support you. Forums, knowledge bases and user organisations can help further. Vendors should also be able to introduce you to peers and other customers who have had similar challenges and opportunities. Sharing is caring.

Vendors also need to step up and recognise that they don’t offer a ‘one size fits all’ solution but must make aspects of their offering specific to a vertical, community and user type. This isn’t bespoke tailoring, just a case of pointing customers to the huge set of functions and processes that have been designed into the product and the ways in which to extend that software to third-party tools.

A Customer Success plan is only as good as the energy both parties put into it, so it’s important to share if there are elements of wariness about change in your organisation – you’re very far from being alone on this point. And, if a vendor can help you get over early objections, then they stand a far better chance of getting buy-in from sceptics.

SaaS businesses are not systems integrators or high-level business consultants, but they do have lots of direct domain experience. They know that if they can help customers then those customers will be engaged and more likely to speak on their behalf.

A good SaaS vendor should help you throughout: before, during and after the adoption process, to encourage, communicate, cost-justify, adapt, and use value engineering as a defence against pushback. The author Stewart Brand has written that “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” That maybe overdramatising the situation we’re discussing here a little but it’s true that buyers who are proactive, keen to query and lean on vendors get the best deal for themselves and the vendor from whom they are buying.