Best Practices for Implementation Success, Based on Real-World Experience

Through my role as Sugar's senior global channel marketing manager, I've had some unique opportunities to work very closely with our Partner Community over the past years. Interacting on a daily basis with our partners across the globe, I've learned a lot about our customers' experiences. And one of the most common challenges I often hear about is around implementation.

Based on my conversations with our trusted partners, I've come to understand just how difficult it can be when you're getting started with a new customer experience (CX) platform. The good news is that there are plenty of best practices to learn from, directly from champions across the globe!

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Sugar's implementation Partner KINAMU about the secrets to their success with AB Enzymes. This manufacturer had some big changes in store when it first adopted Sugar. Within a matter of months, however, employees were spending less time than ever on administrative work—and getting a much clearer picture of their customers.

Whether you're brand new to Sugar or could use some inspiration from fellow users, AB Enzymes' experience is a great one to learn from. To help assist you in your own journey, we've pulled together a list of the key steps they took to ensure a seamless transition, together with KINAMU.

Here's what we've learned...

Proven steps for a successful implementation

Because each business has its own unique goals and needs, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring high adoption rates and positive outcomes. However, I am convinced - no matter where you stand in the journey, many companies will benefit from the few key best practices we are sharing with you below. More specifically, when AB Enzymes set out to transform how it managed customer data, the company:

Created a detailed plan

Before you begin uploading data or analyzing reports, it's critical to decide upfront what you want to get out of your new Sugar implementation.

"Without a plan, we could have quickly lost sight of the timing or the goal," said Ida Matero, the project manager at KINAMU. "That's why we coordinated closely with AB Enzymes to create a comprehensive plan."

That plan outlined a lot more than just goals. Key milestones, expectations for testing, and ongoing coordination efforts were all addressed in detail—as were the specifics teams and individuals would be responsible for in each area of the project.

Determined priorities upfront

To help ensure a smooth transition, it is essential to be crystal clear on expectations from day one. For example, at AB Enzymes everyone knew from the start that a high priority would be placed on:

  • Synchronizing customer data across systems. Because much of the company's data was already stored in its ERP, it was highly important to integrate new and existing systems. Since this need was addressed early on, employees are now able to manage customer data seamlessly—whether they're working in Sugar or SAP ERP.
  • Simplifying the process for creating professional tenders. Employees needed a way to simplify the process of personalizing communication at scale. In response to this need, the implementation team took steps early on to ensure the right data would be extracted. Through a mix of contact records and master company records, each tender is now automatically (and accurately) personalized with the right names, titles, company logos, terms of payment, and more.

Emphasized training

A big factor in AB Enzymes' success was a focus on developing training strategies tailored to the unique needs of various users. The company's training program included hands-on sessions as well as on-demand videos and custom modules. Each of these materials was adapted for different roles, and individual needs were always taken into account. In addition, project leaders committed to developing a plan for providing ongoing user support beyond the initial training and go-live phases.

Involved users a lot

Happy users contribute significantly to the success of any new system, since they're more likely to provide frequent feedback and help to positively expand the system. For this reason, AB Enzymes and KINAMU took deliberate steps to involve users in each individual project phase.

First, there was a special "Hyper-Care Phase" during the first 90 days after go-live, when additional support was made readily available. A one-hour online session was offered every Tuesday morning and evening, and many employees took advantage of that time to have their questions answered. In addition, a dedicated "Champions Program" was established to identify and reward users who proved to be highly adaptable.

"Even if acceptance is high after implementation, the processes can change," explained Matero. "We therefore recommend that our customers actively engage with new developments, such as new features and updates, and welcome feedback from users."

How can your company achieve similar success?

Based on our partner's experiences with AB Enzymes, I'd say several key steps are likely to help you with a successful implementation:

  1. Keep it simple
    The big challenge is being able to cater to users' needs while also enabling professional change management. For this reason, the easiest-to-use features at AB Enzymes were implemented in the first phase. Existing core processes were simply mapped to Sugar for quick, easy master data management, workflows, Outlook integration, and more.
  2. Have a clear plan of action
    The most important aspect of implementation is to have a strong plan for keeping defined goals in focus. Processes were discussed and defined in advance, and all aspects and dependencies were also considered. Preparatory workshops, as well as several hours of planning and data design, saved several weeks of time and effort in the project.
  3. Identify internal champions
    Establishing internal champions—users who understand the value of Sugar and are committed to using it successfully—was an essential and very important step in the introduction of AB Enzymes' deployment. These supporters not only shared their positive experiences with other users on the team, but also provided important feedback. Because champions are likely to welcome change, other users are happy to ask them for help. As a result, they will contribute significantly to acceptance of the new system.
  4. Be prepared to continually monitor and measure
    After going live with Sugar, AB Enzymes was immediately ready to begin monitoring performance on a regular basis. Today, the company uses simple metrics to continuously measure outcomes over one-, three-, and six-month periods. By examining the answers to a set of mission-critical questions each time, leadership is able to make adjustments as needed. Examples include:
    • How many companies, contacts, and sales opportunities were created?
    • How many activities, such as meetings, tasks, and calls, were recorded and updated in the CRM?
    • How many users have logged in and what is the average time spent in the CRM system?
    • How do each of these metrics compare across individual regions?

"By communicating project plans and milestones very early, and by involving users in each phase, AB Enzymes was able to transition quickly and successfully," said Matero. "To this day, employees regularly rely on Sugar to manage mission-critical activities. They've become proficient at everything from demand planning to opportunity tracking, and are increasingly efficient at coordinating the probability of open deals, phases, and activities for key accounts."

Overall, it's an excellent example of what can be achieved by putting a few best practices in place. I hope you find these tips from my interview with KINAMU to be helpful in your own implementations. Do you have additional tips and best practices to share? Leave your advice in the comments below. And if you'd like even more inspiration, I highly recommend giving their customer success story a read — it's a great one!