Services and Training – Creating Customers for Life

It also requires an array of consulting, training, and support services that ensure a successful initial implementation, as well as ongoing usage and delivery of business value.  I recently had an opportunity to connect with Ron Baden, SVP of Services at Planful, to get his take on Planful Services and how they support our “customers for life” philosophy.  Here’s what he had to say. 

John:  Ron, what’s the charter or vision for Planful’ Services organization?  Can you explain it for our readers?

Ron:  Sure, John. The charter for Planful Services is to implement our solutions in the most efficient way possible for the customer and to deliver maximum value from the subscription.  We want to ensure customers’ success so that they become positive references, renew their subscriptions, and remain “customers for life.” 

In Services, we aren’t focused on maximizing utilization or driving margins.  We’re all about the success of our customer and of the company.  In addition to implementing the solutions, we help with sales support, POCs, renewals, and ensuring long-term customer success.  In fact, 25% of our hours last quarter were spent on sales and customer support. 

John:  What type of expertise does our services organization provide to customers?

Ron:  Our Services team has an average of 8-9 years of EPM experience and 12 years of Finance experience.  We have the experience and understanding of our customers’ business challenges, so we can address their problems and work together as partners to solve those problems.  We provide risk mitigation for Finance executives through our methodology, project plans, and staffing.  We also provide change management services focused on helping customers with technology transition.

John:  What is our services methodology?  What’s our secret sauce?

Ron:  Our secret sauces is really about leveraging the cloud to accelerate the implementation process and ensure success.  We perform extensive testing during the implementation cycle, including functional testing, user acceptance testing, and “end to end” system testing.  This includes data loading, application processing, and reporting.  We make sure everything is working correctly before we leave customers on their own.

John:  What makes our services approach different from the competition?

Ron:  We focus on the rollout process, not just the “go live” date.  That means we stay close to the customer through the first completed cycle – budgeting, financial reporting, etc.  The project isn’t complete until the customer signs our project completion certificate. 

John:  That’s great.  How about partners, what is their role in the implementation process?

Ron:  We are very partner-friendly in our implementations.  It’s a true partnership, not us vs. them with finger-pointing.  We are very supportive of mixed projects where partners bring project and industry expertise – which is combined with our product expertise.  As we have grown, most of our projects are mixed in terms of resources.  We lead about half of them, and our partners lead the other half.  To that end, we provide partner enablement services to ensure the quality of the services delivered by our partners and to help scale our ecosystem. 

John:  How long does the typical implementation process take?

Ron:  The average is 8-12 weeks for a development and implementation cycle.  When you include us staying involved through the first business process completion. It can extend to 12-16 weeks.  That’s a lot shorter than for most on-premises solutions, where it can take 6-8 weeks just to order the hardware.  But thanks to our agile methodology and cloud architecture, our scope and design process is shorter, and the training process is shorter. 

John:  What does an implementation team typically look like?

Ron:  From the Planful side, it’s typically three people: a project manager, a solution architect, and an implementation consultant who’s really hands-on the keyboard, leveraging personal experience with the solution and how it integrates with other systems. 

John:  What’s the relationship between the services and training organizations?

Ron:  Training is part of the Services organization. They are a critical part of the implementation team.  Also, training is bundled within our subscription model to ensure customer success.  This includes courses that ensure smooth onboarding, ongoing running of the system, using the latest features, and driving broad user adoption.  The subscription model ensures all users have a learning path and stay engaged.  It also ensures higher renewal rates and ongoing usage.

John:  How does the services organization support our “customers for life” philosophy?

Ron:  As I mentioned earlier, a key metric for us is productive utilization – last quarter, 25% of our time went to preservation of ARR, customer renewals, and new customer acquisition.  We make sure users are happy and productive through our administrator accelerator training, system tuning, and ongoing customer support.  We view our implementation services as a key component of our “customers for life” philosophy, and it’s been very successful so far. 

John:  Thanks, Ron – this has been very helpful.  Where can customers go to learn more about our Services offerings? 

Ron:  To learn more about Planful Services and Training offerings, customers can visit the Services page on our website.

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