Customer Enablement in Digital Projects


We would like to congratulate our long-standing implementation partner SDZeCOM on winning the IT Innovation Award in the IT Services category for its Customer Enablement Program approach. We asked Ralf Jung (Senior Consultant) and Joachim Schopf (Project Manager) from SDZeCOM what is behind this.

Ralf, what is the Customer Enablement Program (CEP) all about? How did it come to be a part of the SDZeCOM portfolio?

This program is basically about making our customers "ready" for their digital projects and enabling them based on our know-how, which we have gathered in over 20 years of many PIM and publishing projects. In practice, we often see that our contacts for PIM projects on the customer side often come from the specialist departments and not from the IT department. However, if an employee has never implemented an IT project before, which is often the case, it is very difficult for this employee to handle such a project. The Google search for "problems with IT projects" also confirms our experience, with over 8 million search results.

This has prompted us to develop and build a Customer Enablement Program. Responsible for this great program is our managing director Oliver Frömmer.

What does the CEP approach look like in practice?

Our Customer Enablement Program (CEP) is a modular system of standards and methods that enables our customers to carry out their implementation projects up to 90% independently. This is because many requirements in projects can be implemented using standards and best practice approaches. Some functions already exist in a system and can therefore be configured instead of programmed in most cases. Therefore, the goal in CEP projects is to find solutions in the standard way or implement reasonable alternatives for most requirements. The few cases of necessary customization are then kept to a minimum in terms of scope and effort.

To ensure that the introduction of the PIM solution is a success, we support our customers with specially developed training courses, our guides writtenfor this purpose, with various and optional services and defined quality gates and reviews with which we regularly monitor the success of the project.

Our conception for CEP projects consists of the following service modules.

The trainings are at the beginning of the project. During this training, the project team on the customer side, consisting of e.g. the project manager, product owner and an application consultant, receives compact and intensive training from us. In addition to general training, each team member is individually qualified and trained for their respective role. In this way, we ensure that each team member is appropriately equipped before the start of the project, thus enabling a quick start to the project.

In addition, the customer's project team receives guidance during the project. The guide provided by us accompanies and leads the team, online or on-site, through the entire project. It ensures at the beginning that all requirements are met and open questions are clarified.

In addition, further services can be used to help keep the project on track. These services include, for example, application operation, the use of a ticket system, data collection, data migration, asset consolidation or the programming of interfaces and the connection of other systems.

Quality gates help with project control and management. With our defined quality gates we can check whether certain requirements such as workflows, data models, interfaces have been implemented correctly and thus do not stand in the way of further project success. This performance is evaluated by our guides, software architects and solution consultants.

At first glance, it looks like you are "cannibalizing" your consulting business. Customer enablement program or classic project? Which approach is suitable for which customers?

Well, project structures have changed, the requirements are getting bigger and bigger. Many medium-sized customers in particular lack the comprehensive know-how, employees and structures to be able to handle these huge projects. Nevertheless, customers still want to be able to handle many things internally. And this is exactly where we build the bridge.

The approach is not suitable for everyone. Many companies cannot or do not want to go this route. How much help a customer needs depends on many factors, such as product complexity. If we take two disciplines here, in the case of extremely configurable products, such as heating systems, it is many times more difficult to map this object dependency via software or in a PIM system. The more complex the product, the more support a customer will need. Questions such as complexity, configuration options, PIM-specific requirements, etc. come to the forefront. If we then look at the second discipline, publishing, we have to create an understanding of what is feasible with automation so that a vision of the future can be communicated to everyone. Other customers, however, are positioned in such a way that they will be perfectly capable of carrying out projects largely on their own thanks to our training alone.

Is the CEP approach also tailored to the requirements in publishing?

In publishing, automated works such as catalogs are created with the product information that comes from a PIM system. If we look at today's publishing, we see two scenarios: On the one hand, of course, there is the manual creation of a catalog, for example, as we know it. But then there is also modern, digital publishing.

This publishing or this type of print product is triggered and initiated by digital platforms, such as ecommerce stores. Whether the publications are actually printed or whether they involve the automated generation of PDFs is irrelevant. For example, the goods ordered in the online store are accompanied by matching, highly individualized package inserts or flyers. Modern publishing is therefore on-demand and data-driven. It's on demand. The prerequisite for this is, of course, the data that is stored upstream in the PIM system.

It is interesting to note that for many new customers, the topic of publishing is coming to the forefront and gaining in importance again as a result of an upcoming PIM project. Among other things, customers are asking themselves questions such as: What is publishing anyway? What can and do I want to achieve with it? Or how do I shape my touchpoints or print in general? In relation to our work, this means that publishing must be included in the analysis right from the start in order to be properly understood as part of an overall strategy.

For this reason, SDZeCOM has developed modules and services tailored to specifically publishing topics. These are strategic modules such as a check whether the potential of publishing if optimally used in the multichannel communication strategy, how this goal can be achieved, or training courses in which basic knowledge of publishing topics, e.g. typography, printing processes, optimum data quality for publishing projects, etc., is imparted. Layout optimization to increase productivity through automated publishing is another module. Services such as asset optimization for use in publishing and much more are also part of this publishing package.

SDZeCOM as a "coach" - isn't coaching something very "personal" that Corona has made more difficult?

In the last few months, we have gained valuable experience precisely in this respect. Initial or consulting appointments will always take place in person. It is also essential for the project to run well that all participants can work and communicate well with each other and at a personal level. Nevertheless, we have also had very good experiences remotely. Especially in short training sessions between 2-4 hours, in which we deal with a topic in a very focused way, distribute task assignments, etc., we worked more effectively than in full-day face-to-face workshops.

Ralf, your planned presentation for priint:day was on the topic of "priint:suite meets PIM". What can our participants expect in 2021? Will it stay that way?

The past few months have shown us that projects are already approached differently today than they might have been in 2019. We would like to provide some thoughts on this for the participants of the priint:day in June 2021 and present new approaches, such as our Customer Enablement Program.

Joachim, you wanted to give our participants 10 tips on how to (not) drive their publishing project to the wall. Do our participants at priint:day in June 2021 still expect the same tips?

Yes and no. During the course of a project, there are of course numerous stumbling blocks that need to be avoided. Many tips still apply today, but their relevance has shifted in some cases.

You already revealed the first tip in our Digital Preview. It is: "Strengthen project management". What does that mean in concrete terms and how do you assess this tip from today's perspective, also with regard to your Customer Enablement Program?

Especially in this Corona era, in which many employees work from their home offices, acting on one's own responsibility is even more fundamental and project steps and coordination processes must be planned, evaluated and reviewed in an even more differentiated manner. This requires a project management that is sufficiently equipped with competencies and is allowed and able to make binding decisions. Elementary for every project is a kind of "key user". In other words, a person who makes the project their "baby", who likes to do it and who drives it. Once this person has been found in the company, it is our job to train and coach them and thus ensure the success of the project.

Watch the complete video by Joachim Schopf (in German).

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In 2020, you made your "Publishing Special and Update" events online with great success. What are your plans for 2021?

Yes, that's right. The feedback was great across the board. Many online participants would not have been able to block two days in their schedule for a face-to-face event. We reached this rather "indecisive" group of people very well via the online format. Nevertheless, we all probably feel the same way in one respect: Despite very, very good online formats, personal exchange is lacking. As of today, our plans for 2021 are therefore moving in the direction of a hybrid event.

Ralf and Joachim, thank you very much for the creative and informative insights and outlook. Stay as lively and above all healthy!  Stay well through these times, we are already looking forward to creating and spending the 10th priint:day 2021 with you.