SaaS

The journey to a SaaS-based internal communication product

The journey to a SaaS-based internal communication product

This post outlines the selection process of a newsletter product for internal communication in Amdocs. The process of replacing an existing on-premises newsletter product, which has no roadmap and lacks in functionality, with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product takes several months and involves stakeholders from many parts of the organization.

 

From the outset, it is important to put clear requirements and guidelines in place. In this case, they were as follows:
 

  1. The chosen product will be used for internal communication within the company.
  2. It will include the customers’ growing requirements.
  3. It will be Cloud-based.

The next step is to create a project plan divided into two main phases: Selection process until sign-off, which is discussed in this post, followed by product implementation and rollout.

 

The organization already had a newsletter product for quite some time, therefore, the fundamental requirements were known and it was only necessary to interview internal customers to generate a wish list of additional requirements.

 

The market offers many solutions with analysis tools and extended functional requirements, which can be adjusted to customer demands. In this case, the main business requirements were a product built for internal communication, has a variety of templates, includes A/B testing, personalization, advanced content creation, social & video capabilities and enhanced analytic reports.

 

On top of the business requirements, the Information Security and IT teams provided their own long wish list, that primarily consisted of security requirements focused on SaaS: traffic encryption and inspection by WAF, SSO connectivity, role-based authorization, and integration with audit systems.

 

As the main goal was internal communication and not an external marketing solution, the information security restrictions narrowed the list dramatically.

 

A Gartner consultant provided limited analysis as they had not covered this area yet, and there was no Magic Quadrant available. So, the analysis was done internally.

 

Once the list was narrowed down to a few candidates, a deep dive was done into the products by way of demos, trials and sessions with the vendors to test the products, get additional information and references, and observe the vendor’s responsiveness.

 

The selection process was supported by a decision model and the requirements were categorized under several topics, such as functionality, administration, security and support.

 

Each of the requirements was evaluated and rated, and based on the calculated percentage a grade was determined for each product.  

 

Here is the decision model skeleton used, based on Gartner’s methodology:

decision model

 

The weights and percentages were adjusted according to priorities.  

 

Here are some details on the ‘Functionality’ sub criteria and features that were analyzed and compared:  

 

SUB CRITERIA
FEATURE SAMPLES
User Functionality
Unsubscribe
Social – Like & Comments
Creation Process
Drag & Drop articles
Content personalization
Real time update
Survey
Distribution Process
Automatic scheduling
A/B testing
Tracking
Comparison
Regional analytics
Filtering & sorting
Administration
Segmentation
Archive
Admin accounts

 

So how was the product chosen?

 

The stakeholders—customers, Information Security and IT teams—rated the products. Several sessions were conducted to review and discuss the results, and then they completed the selection process and agreed on the chosen product.

 

At the same time, the stakeholders were mapped and remained involved throughout the process, determining their own engagement level.  

 

Here is a summary of the disciplines the stakeholders were involved in:

 

STAKEHOLDERS
DISCIPLINES
Business Focal Points from All Units
Provide business requirements.
Be involved in the selection process and rate the products.
Conduct user acceptance tests.
IT Personnel
Provide system requirements.
Be involved in the selection process and rate the products.
Configure and integrate the solution to the company infrastructure.
Support the implementation process.
Information Security
Provide security requirements.
Be involved in the selection process and rate the products.
Refer and provide input to the contract.
Review and approve the selected product.
Conduct penetration tests.
Cover risk assessments.
Procurement
Manage the negotiation process with the vendor.
Ensure all aspects are covered, such as SOW, SLA, and license/subscription model.
Legal
Review and cover the following aspects: Indemnification, limitation of liability, privacy of the employees and customers.
Negotiate all legal aspects in the contract.

 

The Procurement and Legal teams worked closely on the contracts and scope of work (SOW) proposals.

 

It was a long process that took several months because there was a lot of interaction during the negotiation process.

 

Once contracts were signed, the scope of the project and timelines could be planned together with the customers and vendor.

 

Here are the lessons learned from this phase of the process:
 

  1. Conduct comprehensive market research.
     
  2. Prepare a selection matrix (decision model) that covers all categories and set the items’ weights according to your priorities.
     
  3. Involve all stakeholders from the initial stages of the process.
     
  4. Provide all relevant details to all the participants, especially Procurement and Legal, so they can negotiate effectively:
     
    1. Explain the business and scope.
       
    2. Provide Procurement with a few candidates to work with during the negotiations.
       
    3. Work with all legal roles to ensure coverage of privacy, commercial and customer data.
       
  5. Pay attention to every detail, big and small, in the SOW referring to the project scope, timeline and responsibilities. Set milestones and deliverables.
     
  6. Define the subscription payment start date upon project implementation completion.

 

Stay tuned for the next post on phase two, the implementation process.

 

Author: Tsameret Sharabi has more than 20 years of experience in product and project management for IT projects, ECM and document management. She believes that collaboration and partnerships with all stakeholders are the key to business success.

 

 

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