Guest Blogger

By Phil Gibbs, executive director of customer success, LLamasoft

Using software in supply chain design may be increasingly common, but making a success of it early on and delivering those all-important quick-wins sometimes requires a collaborative approach.

By working in tandem with a supply chain management software company, businesses can ensure they receive the training and guidance necessary to ensure initial success, as well as the support that will help them carry that same success far into the future. With this in mind, it’s vital that companies looking to adopt new software and transform their supply chain choose a partner that can deliver the right level of support.

Finding the right support

The “right level of support” will be entirely dependent on the organisation’s level of experience and the scope of the projects it is, or is planning on, undertaking. Services can range from basic customer support functions to coaching and training activities and long-term customer success management. The depth and quality of these services, of course, will differ between providers.

Though nearly every company will offer some sort of customer support function, there is a surprisingly wide gap regarding the capacity and availability of this function between companies. A company based in the UK, for example, may only offer support during typical British or European business hours. A larger company, however, with offices located in various continents, is likely to operate its customer support functions round the clock.

Though they may be reminiscent of professional services, coaching and training activities carry an important differentiator. Whereas professional services consist of delivering a project for the customer, coaching and training are focussed on enabling customers to use the new technology themselves, making them much more appealing to far-sighted businesses than the former.

Training services typically involve the software company visiting the customer’s premises to deliver training course packages designed to teach staff the ins and outs of the software and give them an opportunity for in-person troubleshooting and demonstrations. Coaching, on the other hand, offers a much more in-depth approach. This process is comprised of a mentor-protégé type relationship between one or more experts from the software company and the team who will be managing future projects, in which the experts will build up the capability of the latter and ensure they are well-equipped to make best use of the new software.

This is ideal for companies setting up their supply chain centre of excellence, for example, and in need of a hand to get the initial project underway. By utilising coaching services, these companies can ensure they receive the technical training and guidance they need to make the critical initial projects a success.

While they may not be as common as other support services, customer success management can make a world of difference for businesses adopting new technology. Customer success management provides companies with a single point of contact, ensuring they always have a name and face to talk to when they need information or advice on when the next release of the software is coming out, what the next step of a project should be or how different projects should be prioritised. While many companies do employ account executives to undertake a similar service, these roles are unignorably tied to the sales function, whereas those working in a customer success management capacity are solely focused on assisting clients.

Setting off on the right path

Establishing the right kind of partnership is vital for any company that is adapting to new software and methods of work. By using a combination of customer support, coaching and training activities and customer success management, businesses can begin initial projects straight away without having to wonder where to start or how to best utilise the software.

Finding success with these initial projects is especially vital. Businesses will likely have been through a selection process and IT teams may have had to convince colleagues to move on from a legacy or less efficient piece of software. Adopting new software may also represent a big step up for some companies, particularly those who are accustomed to using Excel or similar software to carry out design activities. Considering the financial and intellectual commitment to supply chain design, there will often be a lot of focus within the company on new activities that have been set up, and those in control of finances will want to see results. If the initial project takes too long to implement or fails to deliver value to the business, confidence will likely sour.

This is one of the reasons why taking a collaborative approach is crucial. With the right expertise and guidance, businesses can ensure they choose the right project to start off with; something that is within their capability to deliver and offers real value to the business. Aided by the right software company – who of course will have a greater understanding of the solution than anyone else – companies can make sure they start off on the right path when pursuing supply chain excellence, achieving the all-important quick wins and making sure they are set up for continued success.

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