There is no better feeling than sitting with customers and listening to their problems and understanding their pain points, diving into your memory banks, and pulling out a perfect plan to solve their issues. The fun of working with the team to visualize workflows, designs, and architecture all flowing together in perfect harmony. We have all been there, but what if you are not developing a solution for one customer? What if you are building for the masses? What if you needed a solution that consists of many workflows for similar tasks with hundreds of options that lead customers on the same journey? While this creates a detailed understanding of what is needed, we encounter these everyday obstacles in developing our SCM SaaS platform, and the root to it all is:
When the decision is made to build the most excellent SCM solution that will take over a primarily analog industry, your options are limitless. The challenge is how to address thousands of customers who work the same processes but in a thousand different ways. Despite this, your vision of moving customers through design, costing, purchasing, production, and many more stages is perfectly sound. How? Through trial and error, to understand how to separate the workflows from the tasks altogether in a customer’s workflow.
Understanding the Customer Workflow
Customer workflow, especially in supply chain solutions, can be so deeply ingrained that it will take complete trust in a solution for them to commit to a new way to do their jobs. At Suuchi, build this trust by configuring our products to be loosely coupled with each other. That way, our customers take a stepwise approach to implementation and add functionality as they become comfortable with the platform. This simple yet profound concept allows us to re-use fully functional features and link them to any product in our SaaS platform. An example is the functionality of our Communication & Collaboration and Project Information Management (PIM) products are fully accessible from our Supply Chain Finance and PLM & Material Management products, all by a simple configuration table entry. Additionally, we can configure linking the costing functionality to any GRID module in this same example. This simple architecture allows us to configure any new module and connect it to all other modules.
But can you be everything to everyone? Can you provide journeys for multiple customer workflows? The answer is obviously… maybe?
How to Avoid Configuration Pitfalls
The hardest part of providing a solution that fulfills requirements for different customers within various industries is fully understanding what you are delivering and solving for your customer base. It is easy to fall into the trap of creating custom customer workflows that are not reusable. You will always receive pressure to complete customer requests, but you need to put these requests into perspective and quantify the ROI of the work across multiple customer use cases. These are the pitfalls that force unnecessary configurations that become a burden to manage.
Additionally, even though configurations will take you in the right direction, it can become costly if not done correctly. Especially if you provide a platform that allows customers to configure their processes. For a solution provider to fulfill customer needs, you will need to provide a substantial number of configurations, even with restrictions for core-based features. The problem and mistakes that you can run into are that these configurations become too complicated to implement at the customer level. You run the risk of outsmarting your architecture at the expense of your customers.
Do not fall into the habit of over configuring your platform that forces your customers to commit someone to fill this role solely to manage your solution. Additional headcount and overhead are counterproductive and costly to your customers. Configurations should be completed as part of the onboarding process and simple to understand and manage when changes are required.
Providing configurable options is a good practice and a necessity to lift the customer’s experience. I have used my expertise to guide my team always to question where configurable options make sense. And not only to define where they make sense but how they will benefit the customers. I think that we got it right for the most part, and we are well prepared and ready for the configuration challenges that lay ahead.