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1 June 2021

5 Steps To Future-Proof Your Customer Success Organization Using Agile Development

Seyi Adesola
by Seyi Adesola Reading time: 5 mins

The Customer Success Landscape Is Constantly Evolving. Are You Keeping Up?

As your company’s business model, target market and products continuously evolve, the need for your Customer Success (CS) organization to continuously adapt is critical.  CS leaders are realizing that they need an organizational management approach that evolves with their changing customer needs, incoming data, and market developments. Enter Agile

Adopting an Agile operational model in your Customer Success organization will empower your team to quickly adapt, iterate and pivot, allowing you to innovate faster, continuously improve your CS organization and maximize customer value. While most Customer Success organizations recognize the immense benefits of implementing Agile, many struggle to do so cohesively. According to Digital.ai, while 95% of companies report practicing Agile development methods, only 18% indicated that all of their teams are Agile (2020). To stay ahead of the curve, leveraging best practices will ensure a smoother and more successful Agile transformation. 

Here are 5 strategic actions you need to take to ensure successful Agile adoption in your Customer Success organization.

1) Identify Your Strategic Objectives

Before you implement Agile in your CS organization, it’s important to define your strategic objectives for CS and map these to your company’s overall objectives. This will then enable you to identify how the switch to Agile will help you achieve those goals. Having a clear vision and understanding of your objectives will allow you to determine if Agile is right for your CS organization, select the Agile development model that is the best fit and ensure its long-term adoption. We recommend linking your strategic objectives for CS to $-based metrics wherever possible. This will enable a clear ROI to be mapped between your investments in Agile and the achievements of your CS organization.

2) Select The Right Agile Development Model

While Scrum is the most widely used Agile operational model, consisting of small cross-functional teams working in incremental sprints, there are over twenty methodologies to choose from. Other popular frameworks include; Extreme Programming (XP), Lean Software Development, Kanban, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development (FDD) and Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). Selecting the right methodology from the start can be the key to a successful transformation towards an Agile model in your CS organization. 

Defining your strategic objectives for CS is the first step to identifying which Agile framework is the best fit for your organizational needs. When selecting an Agile framework for your CS operations, it’s imperative that you carefully evaluate your organization, current CS technology capabilities, project types, employees and team culture. All of these factors influence the selection of an Agile framework and its effectiveness in your CS organization.

3) Involve Key Stakeholders

Agile relies on close collaboration between your CSMs, senior leadership, cross-functional teams and customers. Therefore, it’s crucial to involve and consult all of these various stakeholders from the beginning. You could have a thorough strategy and rollout roadmap in place, but without buy-in from all key stakeholders, your Agile transformation could be over before it begins. Ultimately, your employees will determine what is successfully adopted and implemented in your Customer Success organization, so you need to ensure that you clearly articulate the benefits of Agile to your day-to-day CS operations. When it comes to involving your customers, ensure that they are a part of your feedback loop as you start small; their feedback directly affects the trajectory of your Agile implementation.

4) Start Small

One of the biggest mistakes that CS leaders make when implementing an Agile development model is trying to change the entire organization overnight. Agile operational models are predicated on iterative progress and this principle should also be applied to its implementation in your CS organization. Start by applying your selected Agile framework to a few small epics, such as an update to how you prep for QBRs. This will allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of Agile within your team and uncover any resistance or obstacles. A quick win is also more likely to get automatic stakeholder buy-in and drive successful adoption of Agile in your CS organization.

5) Engage Agile Champions

Your team is the key to successfully adopting and implementing Agile methodologies in your CS organization, so it’s important that you provide them with the support and guidance they need to thrive. Employ Agile champions, such as Agile Coaches or Scrum Masters, to guide your team through the transformation and help them rethink their approach to the array of complex Customer Success challenges. We recommend either hiring external consultants to work with your team or appointing a full-time Agile champion within your organization to guarantee successful Agile adoption.

Harness The Power Of Agile

To champion Customer Success as an enterprise-wide effort, you need an Agile model that can continuously drive CS improvements. Without a doubt, there are complexities and demands of implementing an Agile model that you will encounter in this journey. By keeping these 5 steps at top of mind, you can align your teams around an agile approach that will help you thrive in the inherently unpredictable customer success landscape.

Are you ready to apply the power of Agile to your Customer Success organization? Read our article about engineering Customer Success processes for maximum impact and efficiency.

Seyi Adesola
Seyi Adesola

Seyi is a Product Owner with extensive experience working with software development teams across diverse sectors. He has helped deliver value to customers in different domains by leading full cycle developments of various products within the Agile environment.