Harness Your Implementation Team for SaaS Product Discovery

Harness Your Implementation Team for SaaS Product Discovery

The best product teams know the product discovery process is ongoing and iterative. The nature of the B2B SaaS industry requires teams to engage in continuous product discovery to deliver value to their customers and remain competitive. 

The process of acquiring customers can be expensive and business resources are often focused on reducing this cost as much as possible, wanting to bring the customer “to value” as soon as possible. Continuous product discovery– conducting frequent, smaller check-ins with customers about your products, measuring actual product usage against stated customer needs, and uncovering subsequent gaps– is crucial to that goal.  

This is where the implementation team comes in. This team should be strategically staffed with experts who deeply understand what your customers are trying to accomplish, and then work to set those customers up to see success with your software as quickly as possible. Building this approach into your product discovery and development process makes the whole thing smoother and helps your organization hit critical key performance indicators (KPIs)– like decreasing customer acquisition cost (CAC) and increasing lifetime value (LTV). 

Understanding B2B SaaS Continuous Product Discovery

Every team builds its own, unique approach to product development. The most successful teams build one that’s customer-focused, responsive and keeps them competitive. To capitalize on that success even further, teams should incorporate the implementation team’s learnings from working with customers into the overall product development process.

While talking directly to customers about their pain points and how they’re using your products and features is important, it’s also crucial to hear from the engineers who are working directly with those customers to get them set up with your software. Where are the common hiccups and roadblocks? These valuable insights enhance the continuous product discovery process.

The Role of Implementation Teams in Product Discovery

If your team already has a mechanism to gather customer feedback efficiently, decide how you can best incorporate learnings from the implementation team in a way that enhances it. 

Implementation teams and their expertise

Implementation teams work directly with customers to get them onboarded with your software, giving them unique insight into customer challenges and their expectations for how your product will work for them. 

Product teams need to have access to this information alongside regular user feedback so that gaps can quickly be identified between how you are positioning your product and how it's being perceived.

Streamlining Knowledge Transfer

How you integrate the implementation team’s learnings into your knowledge repository depends on how you have it set up and how your team prefers to work. If you’re using a good old-fashioned spreadsheet, it might be time to upgrade to a tool that can streamline the process and aid in your continuous product discovery process.

The goal for any team should be to work from a single source of truth, especially around customer feedback. All customer-facing teams should be able to easily update the knowledge repository at any time. Other teams should be able to access the information they need to do their jobs without tracking someone down to ask for the latest updates. That approach quickly leads to frustration and poor cross-team collaboration.

Once your team has decided on a tool or system to use, be sure everyone in the organization is thoroughly trained on it. Integrate it into your new employee onboarding so that any new team members can hit the ground running by contributing or accessing customer feedback as needed. 

Impact on Product Development

Implementation teams bridge the gap between development and customers, giving fellow engineers a window into how customers think and use the products they are building. That enables engineering teams to get real-time user feedback on how products and features are used during onboarding and what might need more clarity. It also highlights any features that aren’t getting engagement. 

That lets product teams know if they need to bring a particular product or feature into the forefront for customers to help them understand its value, or to deprioritize it because it’s not meeting a need as intended.  

This hands-on customer time helps enhance product reliability as engineers spend time in the product, discovering different bugs as they onboard different customers and run into unique challenges. All of this helps facilitate continuous discovery habits. 

Solidifying Implementation Team Feedback Loops

Because implementation teams work directly with customers, they need a special set of skills straddling both development and customer relationships. A candidate with very strong technical skills but weak communication skills would either need training to improve their communication or to be placed in a different role. 

Implementation team members ideally need: 

  • Technical skills: the ability to configure, customize, and troubleshoot software for customers depending on their unique use case.  
  • Project management skills: the ability to manage more than one customer project at a time, including realistic timelines and anticipating and mitigating potential risks.  
  • Communication skills: the ability to clearly and effectively communicate not only with customers but also internally across the organization, especially with development and sales teams.  
  • Collaboration skills: the ability to work across teams to seamlessly take over the customer relationship from sales, then transfer it to customer success.  

While not every engineer will have these skills or the desire to develop them, offer comprehensive training for those who do express an interest in an implementation role. Even those with strong skills benefit from the opportunity for continuous learning– and this approach helps foster a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing inside the implementation team and across your organization. 

Establishing Regular Check-Ins 

Team alignment isn’t a “set it and forget it” strategy. The approach or methodology you choose for your organization doesn’t matter as much as organization-wide buy-in and working from a single source of truth does. Regular check-ins across teams should be built into your continuous product discovery framework; these help enhance cross-team collaboration.

Enhancing cross-team collaboration  

Implementation teams need to be aligned with product management goals. If there’s a higher goal of increasing user adoption, for example, the implementation team might be tasked with decreasing the time it takes to onboard new users. Faster onboarding means customers are using products and features sooner, getting value out of them and increasing their satisfaction. 

Streamlined workflows between teams help achieve these goals, with open communication being key. The implementation team needs to be able to flag issues to the product team– and vice versa– as soon as they arise so they can be dealt with quickly. That helps avoid lengthy product downtime, further increasing user satisfaction. 

It also sets teams up to leverage real-time feedback loops for iterative product development. Implementation teams can take customer feedback directly to the product development team to ensure they’re prioritizing the right products and features. What customers say they want is often different from what they actually need. It’s crucial to uncover what they are trying to accomplish with your software to build the right product to meet their needs.

Iterative product development also means your organization is more adaptable and responsive to customer and wider market needs, keeping you competitive in a crowded marketplace. 

Implementing Feedback in Development 

When it comes to feedback from the implementation team, quality matters over quantity. Not all customer feedback will be something that the product development team can tackle immediately. Teams need to learn to identify and prioritize the most actionable insights that will make the biggest impact. 

Measuring the impact changes have is crucial to helping teams stay on target with their goals. To track impact, teams need to: 

  • Define KPIs specific to the implementation team.  
  • Establish benchmarks by measuring before any changes are made, then set realistic goals for improvement. 
  • Adapt strategies based on feedback, both qualitative and quantitative.  

That means not only incorporating learnings from regular customer interviews and other discovery work but also looking at the numbers. Has the time it takes to onboard a new customer decreased? Has customer satisfaction increased, reflected in lower churn? These are the kinds of KPIs to focus on to measure the impact of your implementation team. 

Incentivizing Specialist Certification Programs

Part of building the best possible implementation team in conjunction with your product team is to offer certifications as part of your professional development program that can enhance team members' skills.

Creating Certification Paths 

Implementation teams need to know how to deploy and configure software smoothly while managing customer relationships and sometimes offering ongoing support. 

Some relevant certifications include: 

  • Certified Implementation Specialist (CIS): a specialized training for software implementation.
  • ITIL Foundation Certification: an IT Service Management (ITSM) best practices certification that can be valuable for anyone managing software deployment and ongoing support.
  • CompTIA Project+ Certification: a certification for project management skills related to IT projects. 
  • Certified Customer Success Specialist (CCSS): a certification to help develop skills necessary for managing customer relationships.
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): if your organization uses an agile approach, this certification teaches skills related to scrum methodology and agile project management. 
  • DevOps Foundation Certification: a certification that can help improve collaboration between development and operations for smoother deployments. 
  • Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP): a certification centered on data management principles that’s relevant for implementation teams handling data migration and integration in the course of their jobs. 

Be sure junior team members are aware of the certifications available for them to pursue. Have senior team members encourage them to get certified, highlighting how it can help them in their career path. Make it easy for interested team members to do so by providing the time and resources necessary to take it on. That could mean assigning them fewer projects while they’re getting certified and/or covering the costs associated with the certification. 

Assessing Impact on Expertise 

If you’re investing time and resources into helping employees pursue advanced certifications, it makes sense to track that impact on their work. If your organization does quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), incorporate certifications into that system. Create OKRs around pursuing a certain certification and the skills it teaches. 

Be sure you’re also soliciting feedback on how effective any certification program is so employees aren’t getting frustrated with it. Adjust what you offer in terms of professional development based on the outcomes achieved with different certifications. 

Maximizing Pre-sales Involvement

Every product team has dealt with the headache of poor cross-functional communication, resulting in sales teams that aren’t equipped to best present your products to prospects. Customers need to know how your software will solve their problems and how quickly and easily it can start doing so. 

Bringing the implementation team into the process early means sales will gain a deeper understanding of customer pain points, how your product solves them, and the time it takes to get them onboarded and on the road to success. 

This way, customers aren’t left with unrealistic expectations or a false understanding of what it is that your software can do. 

Leveraging Implementation Expertise 

Sales and implementation teams should have the same, deep understanding of the product they are delivering. To maximize expertise from each team, have them do product demonstrations for one another. This will help each gain perspective and showcase the full potential of products and features for customers. 

The implementation team in particular can help the sales team understand how the product can be tailored to solve specific needs for prospects to provide them maximum value. Both teams can also flag interesting use cases for the marketing team to work with customers to build out case studies. These can be used across the organization to deepen understanding of products and features, share unique use cases, and help prospects in the early stages of engagement with your brand understand the full range of possibilities you can offer them. 

Setting Accurate Customer Expectations 

There’s a balance to be struck in communicating the capabilities of your product with prospects in a way that gets them excited without giving them unrealistic expectations. The implementation team can help keep the sales and marketing teams grounded in their understanding of which problems your products and features can solve and where their limitations lie. 

Prospects and existing customers will trust your product– and therefore your brand– more if your customer-facing teams are transparent about how your products work and what they can solve today. While the product roadmap might be exciting, it also doesn’t exist yet! 

Enhancing Sales Strategies 

Sales collateral and communications need to have the right product messaging. The implementation team can serve as a key resource for reviewing language before it gets shared with customer-facing teams to ensure it accurately reflects product capabilities. 

The implementation team can also play an important role in training others on new product features and how they can be customized. 

Promoting Job Rotations into Customer-Facing Roles

There’s no better way to understand someone else’s job than by actually doing it. To improve empathy and cross-functional collaboration, consider a job rotation program. 

That means moving team members from product management roles into implementation roles, or vice-versa, for specific periods. Done well– with plenty of training and support– this can make teams stronger and more productive. 

Structuring Rotation Programs 

Job rotation programs should be done thoughtfully and intentionally, considering the existing skills and career goals of individual employees. Not every employee will be a good candidate for a rotation; some might benefit from targeted training or certification instead. 

For those who are good candidates, rotation programs should have a set length and specific objectives. Decide ahead of time how success will be measured– shortened product development cycles, for example.

Done well, job rotation programs give employees: 

  • A more holistic understanding of the entire product lifecycle. 
  • A sense of shared responsibility.  
  • Improved collaboration skills, since they directly understand the challenges their colleagues face. 
  • Diversified skills, giving your team more coverage in the long run (critical during a crisis).
  • Increased creativity and innovation from a perspective shift. 

Be sure teams have adequate resources to support a job rotation program. If an implementation team member is swapping jobs with a product developer, they are not only taking time away from their regular work but also from the other team members who are assisting them in their temporary roles. Plan these rotations for slower times in your organization. 

Gaining In-Depth Customer Insights 

Employees who complete a job rotation program will come out with a deeper understanding of the product and how it can solve customer needs. Over time, this can lead to developing products that are not only technically sound but aligned with customer expectations, based on experience with both implementation and product development. 

In each role, employees can collect the feedback they get both from the process and customers themselves to further improve the entire product team’s approach to their work. 

Setting your team up for success 

Continuous product discovery in B2B SaaS companies contains truly transformative potential when implementation teams are thoughtfully included in the process. Their deep knowledge of customer challenges and product capabilities makes them invaluable for prioritizing the right updates and launches on the product roadmap, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction by delivering what customers need. 

Fostering a culture of continuous learning and strong collaboration by streamlining organizational workflows and enhancing employee skills will set your team up for success. They’ll stay agile, be ready to respond to shifting market demands and keep you ahead of the competition.

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