What exactly can independent software vendors (ISVs) do to onboard customers more quickly?
Automation, automation, automation. Well that was easy!
This is an economic as well as a user experience question. The faster you onboard your customers, the faster you recognize revenue and the better the user experience, the more satisfied your customer will be.
As I sit here today, I can’t help but think back on the analogy of having the oil changed in my car. I completed this task recently and observed all the automation, from the large hole in the floor where a person was working and had everything at his fingertips – oil filters, hoses to remove the oil and tools to replace the oil filter – to the service person who greeted me, pulled the car into the bay, took my order, offered me upgrades, took my money and then walked out into the bay and added the new oil.
I was in and out in 10 minutes. It’s all about recognizing revenue and the user experience!
For many reasons, onboarding customers in a Software-as-a-Service model is more difficult than the oil change example. Why? Complex business requirements are dictated by you and your customers.
However, onboarding customers can and should be standardized and programmatically automated as much as possible. Human interaction may be necessary for some portion of the automation; but remember: humans make mistakes. This could be the first real interaction your customer has with you, and poor service delivery can disrupt the beginning of a beautiful relationship and the customer could abandon your great application faster than you can blink an eye.
One obvious choice is to ensure you have Web services in place to integrate with your customer’s authentication and authorization directory services. Secondly, another area of automation – one that’s not always obvious – is integration with the company’s HR/workforce management systems. Integration to these types of systems could be used for reporting account activation, utilization, inactivity or suspension of service.
From a cloud infrastructure standpoint, make sure your cloud provider has APIs available to automate the provisioning of infrastructure based on your business requirements. Automation capabilities include adding automated load balancing rules, custom firewall rules and other network connectivity options.
Furthermore, adding compute and storage resources is one thing, but make sure you can fine-tune these resources like creating virtual CPUs (2,4 and 8 ) and adding the appropriate gigabytes of memory (2, 4, 8 and 16), storage configurations and boot and data volumes.
Larry Steele is technical vice president, software-as-a-service, at Savvis, a leading provider of infrastructure services purpose-built for SaaS.