From StartUp to ScaleUp - Success Factors for Transforming a Customer Success Function (Part 1)

A new article series to provide an insider look at Alyne’s Customer Success Team. In this first article, Felix Schock shares some of the most important developments and transformations within the team, with insights on topics like team structure, knowledge sharing and internal collaboration – all crucial aspects in the positive development of a growing team.

Much has happened since I first crossed paths with Alyne in summer 2018. I joined the team in February 2019 and since then our number of customers has grown significantly. The team as a whole and the operation have become much more mature. In order to share some of the developments and transformations of the customer success team, its delivery approach and the people that are building it, we started this blog series.

At first, Customer Success at Alyne was basically a one-man show, executed by Stefan, a co-founder and the CCO. Project delivery to customers was one of his many tasks, which also included sales and operations. A growing customer base, larger license packages and increasing complex on-boarding processes required a fully grown and functioning team of experts.

Number one of the series - the subsequent blog article - is not supposed to be a historical paper on the evolution of Alyne’s Customer Success function, but rather to provide insights into our most important learnings from the last one and a half years. While the aspects per se shouldn’t be new to anyone, it was interesting how crucial they are and were for us as a growing team:

  • Team Structure: Find the right mix.

  • Knowledge Sharing: Document whatever you can.

  • Internal Collaboration: Establish SLAs with other teams.

Team Structure: Find the right mix.

Due to its nature, the implementation of Alyne doesn’t require huge and year-long lasting projects – Luckily. Thus, we can focus on the functional side of things and fully leverage one of our USP’s: to bring expertise on risk management and compliance to the mix and to the teams of our customers.

Therefore, it is essential to have a team of people who can pick up things quickly, are credible subject matter experts and receive acceptance among our customers and their stakeholders. At Alyne, we have been most successful with a mixture of various backgrounds and the combination of consulting/industry veterans, as well as young bright minds directly from university.

As diverse as our customer base is – the range varies from start-ups to global operating manufacturers and automobile banks – the same holds true for our Customer Success team: Eight team members, six nationalities and an age range of almost 40 years, all experts in the area of cyber security, engineering, IT project management and mathematics. We can say with confidence that whatever our customer’s challenge or question is we have the knowledge available to tackle it. We also have the perfect mix to grow together and educate each other.

Knowledge Sharing: Document whatever you can.

Documentation equals knowledge sharing, equals enabling the team, equals continuous improvement.

As long as product/process knowledge and best practice approaches reside with a few people only, scaling is not possible and silos are created faster than imagined. New additions to the team shouldn’t have to create everything from scratch nor ask about everything, instead they should be able to educate themselves from day one. Documented knowledge enables continuous improvement as it allows team members to question how things are handled currently. This enables them to apply their fresh and clear views on how things are and how they could be done. Additionally, we have experienced a couple of further benefits that arose from a larger documentation exercise:

  • Efficient interaction points and resource use → Documented processes enable repeatability as a lot of things can be handled in a standardised way. One good example for us was the handling of SSO integrations between the Alyne platform and our customer’s AD. In general it’s a straightforward process, yet different organisations handle it in various ways. Establishing the Alyne approach helped us industrialise and reduce the time needed for SSO integration significantly.

  • Reliability → Each Alyne customer has a dedicated Customer Success manager to whom they can (and should) reach out in case of any functional, organisational or technical questions. That is key to our philosophy. Yet priorisation, vacation and other unswayable events (such as a global pandemic) require fast handovers and little information gaps. Thorough documentation and shared approaches provide our customers with a seamless experience.

Internal collaboration: Establish SLAs with other teams.

One of the perks of working in a young company with an agile environment is that things keep changing and a lot of aspects can’t be planned. Priorities from sales opportunities, new and existing clients (and their requirements) collide with each other as well as with the product strategy and planning. Part of our promise (internally and externally) is that we are able to react to such situations and make the most out of it. Customer Success very often acts as an intermediary - others might call it “working in the sandwich position”. Ensuring the customer’s success is as important for our motivation as a dependable product roadmap.

Maintaining that balance requires discipline, lots of communication and reliable and clear functional requirements. The latter is especially key for a solid end product, be it an integration or a new feature requirement. For us, the formula that leads to success is simple and applicable:

  • Have user stories based on functional requirements and have them agreed on with your stakeholders.

  • Put a binding timeline in place.

  • Get feedback from your product and dev team and discuss it in detail with your stakeholders.

  • Define a cut-off date for a change request.

  • Plan for sufficient time buffer for user acceptance tests and feedback (also for incorporating that feedback).

Following the aspects above greatly aid in removing the biggest hurdles for successful collaboration. It might be painful at the beginning but this soon allows everyone to collaborate on the same eye level.

Interested in exploring our approach style of collaboration? Reach out to us - be it for implementing your risk management or third party risk assessment in Alyne.

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Felix Schock

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