What Actually Is… a Kickoff Meeting?
BELLIN sells treasury management software. Simple, isn’t it? We’ve all got some idea of how a sales process works, regardless of whether or not this image is actually accurate. However, BELLIN’s work doesn’t stop when a client has acquired a TMS. We offer additional services and most importantly treasury consulting. But when it comes to consulting things are a lot hazier: what does that actually mean? What exactly does a consultant do and how does all of this work?
I’m a consultant and I’m faced with questions such as the above on a regular basis. A client has bought a TMS and what happens next? My initial contact with the customer is quite unspectacular: a member of the sales team will brief me about the client and I then phone them up to introduce myself and to make an appointment for the so-called kickoff meeting. The latter usually takes place at the customer’s premises three to six weeks after a client has acquired their TMS, i.e. signed the contract.
We at BELLIN recommend involving all stakeholders in this meeting, not just the treasury team but also IT, accounting etc. Ideally, everyone should be present who will have some kind of connection to the project, however remote. This can mean a really interesting mixture of people and sometimes I get to know half the company. It certainly helps to be good at remembering names and a have good deal of patience!
Once everyone has been introduced, we continue the meeting with a smaller group of people, usually just the treasury team. My role as a consultant is to provide advice and this meeting is where we need to put the whole project on the right track and determine which topics are of concern to this particular client. Even when purchasing the same tm5 modules, different clients might have completely different questions and objectives. A typical example is liquidity planning: people acquire LMPLANNING which is a standard component but the underlying questions of “where does the data come from?”, “who does the planning?”, “what is to be planned” really depend on a company’s business model. The points that are discussed during this first meeting will set the tone for the entire project: what are the main objectives? What does the client want to achieve? Which questions couldn’t get addressed during the sales process? This can concern a whole range of topics, if only because not everyone who is participating in the kickoff meeting has also been part of the sales process. This makes every kickoff meeting unique and makes my job as a consultant both interesting and challenging.
“But what does that mean exactly?” you may be asking yourself. Essentially, my main motivation is satisfied customers. This is why it is important to me to find out as much as I can about the client and their objectives for this project as early as in my first call. This way I can help them to be as well prepared for the kickoff meeting as they can be. A few weeks ago I went to see one of our UBS clients in Switzerland for a kickoff meeting. The treasurer in charge was scheduled to meet the management of his US parent company the following week and he was set on presenting first results, “Look what our new TMS can do!” The overall objective of the project was permanent and instant cash visibility. UBS had already been active in the run-up to this kickoff meeting and provided all necessary account statements. We started off by entering all basic data into the system and created companies, counterparties and accounts. Once the connection to the UBS server was set up, we could collect account statements and immediately modify the report. After only a few hours, this part of tm5 was up and running and at lunchtime I was facing a beaming customer. A TMS which could provide everything he needed after only a few hours – this was definitely going to go down well, not just with his management!
This is one example of how a kickoff meeting can go. However, naturally not everything always runs smoothly in treasury consulting. I’ve also had cases where the kickoff meeting was anything but a walk in the park, often because there was great pressure on the client or because they had had negative experiences in the past making them very cautious. But this is also something a consultant needs to be able to deal with. Sensitivity and patience will go a long way here.
At BELLIN we therefore have specific recommendations for how a kickoff meeting can be conducted as effectively as possible. This starts with the fact that we aim for two consultants partaking in every meeting, guaranteeing maximum alertness and scope for action. We also try and identify as many of the topics that are to be discussed prior to the meeting as we can – so that we are prepared and can provide the client with the necessary information for them to be prepared. Ultimately, the client also has a part in how well a kickoff meeting goes. In order to have a quick and effective meeting, clients are best advised to have all relevant basic data available and to have some kind of plan as to who will be responsible for which tasks in the system.
In close cooperation with the client, we can make sure that the kickoff meeting marks the beginning of a successful business relationship. As you can see, none of this is as complicated as the terms “treasury consulting” and “kickoff meeting” make it out to be. Our sales team makes sure you buy the right TMS. And I as a consultant make sure you get to use it as quickly and as effectively as possible!
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