Jeff Hofstetter, Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions Vice President of Global Services, knows that clients are happiest when they can realize the value and benefits of their solutions as quickly as possible. Here, he talks about how ELM Solutions works to meet that goal.
Can you tell me about the ELM Solutions approach to implementation and how it is improving the experience for ELM Solutions clients?
We have an ELM Solutions company-wide initiative designed to help our clients realize value from our solutions faster than ever before. There are multiple components of this initiative in departments throughout the company, but from the services perspective, we focus on reducing the solution implementation timeframe so that our clients can achieve quicker positive business outcomes. We do this in several ways.
For example, we encourage clients to get spend management up and running first because it helps them recognize significant ROI. While a full enterprise implementation may take multiple months, the customer often sees savings and value in as little as 2 months with a phased approach. We also utilize embedded best practices within our deliveries. And, while some implementations may include some level of custom development, we capture commonalities across clients so that we don’t have to re-create everything from scratch each time. Where it makes sense, we then move some of those items into the base product offering. Finally, we also leverage an Agile delivery methodology to execute our client implementation projects.
It’s also important to communicate, especially to new clients, that our best practices are built on years of experience as the leader in our space. If you leverage those with only minimal variation into custom territory, you’ll get to value faster and have fewer issues down the road.
Can you briefly explain what Agile methodology is and describe how ELM Solutions uses it?
Agile emerged out of the world of software development as a way to divide large tasks into short units of work called sprints. When using Agile, you work hand-in-hand with the client, reassess often, and adapt plans on the go. The goal is to achieve quick delivery with constant inspection to make sure you’re on track.
We’ve taken that practice and applied it to delivering our client-specific solutions, which are built on our software offerings. Using this approach allows us to rapidly deliver business-driven outcomes for our clients.
What are the advantages of Agile? And are there any drawbacks to using Agile?
Moving to Agile sprints lets us have the client engaged closely with our delivery team throughout the lifecycle of the project. That means we constantly get their feedback and can refine and prioritize requirements, build to those needs, and show our work to the client, all within a few weeks. Everything stays fresh.
And we have the flexibility to shift if we need to. For example, if we’re halfway through a project and the client buys another company, that’s going to change the focus for the legal department. With Agile, we can reprioritize in the very next sprint. The shorter timelines adapt much better to a changing climate.
But there are disadvantages, too. If the customer doesn’t fully participate, they won’t get all the benefits of an Agile methodology.
How important is customer feedback to the Agile process and what form does it take?
It’s paramount. Clients provide feedback and collaborate with us. It not only improves our communication with clients but also gives them much more information to bring back to their stakeholders about how things are progressing.
Client representatives usually participate in our daily meetings and are always there when we perform demos to show what we’ve completed during each sprint. There is constant interaction with project governance bringing the clients in all along.
Again, delivering value is the focus. Constant client communication combined with great implementation practices gets us there fast and increases that value.