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SetuplyAug 18, 2022 3:33:00 PM5 min read

Onboarding Using Spreadsheets Doesn't Scale

"I can't see my clients anymore, and all my tasks are missing!!!! Who reformatted the onboarding spreadsheet last??!!"

Sounds familiar? Too many business software vendors and implementation consultants are stuck onboarding clients using the same tired "methodology" - spreadsheets. And who has the time to take time off from the grinding hamster wheel of working through the backlog, the ever-changing onboarding scope requirements, "this must have been done yesterday" types of projects, and other pains in the day of an onboarding team?

Scaling onboarding will only get more challenging with more companies scrambling to upgrade their aging tech stacks, align with the changing regulations, and improve their operations with better solutions, all in the context of ongoing workplace disruption, changing work and life priorities, and shortage of skilled knowledge workers.

Here are some reasons that continuing to leverage spreadsheet-driven onboarding may do your business more harm than good.


Limited Visibility Driving Communication and Scaling Issues

Clients want to know what's happening at every project stage in real time. While they're anxious to get to the finish line, they want to ensure your team meets specific requirements at every step.

Even something as simple as sending out a welcome kick-off email can become a hassle. From figuring out the optimal availability time for the implementation team members on both sides to gathering and understanding the initial scope requirements and preliminary timeline, a poorly executed initial engagement experience can lead to the deterioration of a relationship that just started.

When the onboarding project is in motion, even with the best, most collaborative spreadsheet solutions, the overhead of start and stop for the client and the implementation team to connect and realign results in decreased productivity of the implementing team on this and other projects effectively expanding the timeline and the cost overall.

With the onboarding team members occasionally taking time off and due to a myriad of other reasons, additional delays and frustrations may result. That means the number of onboarding projects that a single onboarding rep can handle is limited, further impacting onboarding capacity.

Empowering clients to check in on the process, engage and continue to get more educated on the new solution, make any needed adjustments, and provide opportunities to supply any required information can reduce frustration and improve the project timeline.


Risky Access to Data Used in the Implementation Process

With complex business-to-business implementations, there is a significant amount of data exchange that needs to take place. Whether it is historical payroll data, sensitive benefits and enrollment census, nested financial information, spreadsheets are insufficient to provide for secure export, validation, modification – to fit the destination format requirements, and ultimately, import or update onto the new provider platform.

With many onboarding exports now operating from their homes, further questions arise about the data security and compliance that spreadsheets cannot address. Challenges migrating a group of business customers onto another platform or upgrading multiple business customers continue to point to the limitations of spreadsheets.

Modern onboarding solutions that support built-in secure data staging and management help address this challenge at scale giving all the parties peace of mind no matter where they are.


Lack of Flexibility of the Onboarding Process

No clients are created equal. Their industries, locations, sizes, strategic objectives, and other internal and external requirements may drive the needs. Building a simple onboarding activity checklist using the spreadsheet quickly defeats the purpose of the exercise when complex multistep multi-party onboarding projects are involved. However, how many spreadsheets would it take to map out all this complexity? A bigger question is how to keep them up to date with evolving software vendor technology and client needs. This is yet another dimension where spreadsheets fail to scale in the complex onboarding world.

Workflow-driven template-bound solutions can scale quickly and adapt to a wide range of client requirements maintaining structure, scalability, and predictable onboarding process in place of spreadsheets.

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Managing Onboarding Team Availability and Assignments

Scheduling increasingly remote onboarding teams requires incorporating their skillsets, experiences, and availability, and aligning them with clients "ready" to start onboarding, client deadlines, kick-off calls, project signoffs, and other variables. Someone once described this as the juggling act that gets replayed in the office daily. Scheduling onboarding team members has genuinely become an art form, with the role of spreadsheets relegated to being a record keeper of the assignments.

The exercise gets more challenging as more clients and onboarding team members get added. Spreadsheets not only fail to address this onboarding challenge, but they also are unable to provide valuable trend, analysis, metrics insights, and forecasting data. They can't even ensure fair and equitable team load management.

Process and people bottlenecks are harder to find. The same high-performing stars are often scheduled on more projects without much recognition, while laggards can hide behind slow-moving implementations. It's nearly impossible to extract any actionable insight into the actual client onboarding cost allowing the sales team to continue bringing new accounts in the same high-implementation cost / never-breakeven profile dragging down the bottom line. Couple that with many deals sold significantly reduced or waived implementation fees, and the picture gets murkier.

Modern AI-powered Professional Services Automation Solutions built into your onboarding solution can automate the staff scheduling process, incorporating multiple variables, and adapting to evolving companies' or clients' needs. Equally, a vital advantage is the power of analytics that will provide insight into the team performance, pointing to the opportunities to drive efficiencies through process and staff improvement and helping to transform the loss leader into a strategic differentiator.


Keeping Your Onboarding Team Sane

Finally, and probably the most crucial consideration why onboarding teams need specialized tools to do their job is the ability to eliminate manual and tedious tasks, which in many settings can amount to 90% of activities being busy" work. Onboarding representatives must wear multiple hats. In addition to becoming and staying the consummate product experts and juggling multiple projects at once, they must act as data coaxers, communicators, change agents, trainers, and more. There is a high burnout and turnover rate in the onboarding space, and new employees are increasingly hard to find, train, and retain. Every other department in the company: sales, marketing, operations, customer support, legal, and finance, have modern tools to make life easier. It's time for onboarding teams to get their own.

Onboarding software designed to help you navigate the process of getting your clients set up on your product goes a long way to help you grow as a business while still satisfying your customers' needs and keeping the onboarding team happy.

What are the biggest frustrations in your current client onboarding toolkit? Let's talk!