~ 11 MIN READ
Walking the Walk: How We’re Automating our Own Reporting in ClearPoint
We've always managed our strategy within ClearPoint. But until recently, we weren't making the most of the automation available through recent updates. It was time we used the tool to automate and further align around our goals.
At ClearPoint, we like to eat our own dog food. We've always managed our strategy within ClearPoint. But until recently, we were still doing a lot of the work manually. ClearPoint is great for dealing with version control issues, but we were living in ClearPoint 10 and not taking advantage of the many new features that have been released in the last two years.
The thing is, you can do so much more with ClearPoint now than in previous releases. We've been so busy partnering with customers to help them make the most of our exciting new features—from automatic report generation to scheduled reminders and more—that we hadn't gotten around to making the most of them ourselves.
So we decided it was time to optimize our reporting—and our time—with the world of automation now available in ClearPoint. Here's how we're doing it.
The Vision: Align & Automate
The goal in reviewing our reporting process is bigger than saving time through automation; it's also an opportunity to ensure our entire organization is aligned around our strategy. As we explored ways to use the new scheduling and reminders features to automate our processes, we also sought out ways of aligning objectives and initiatives across teams to support our overall organizational goals.
In the process, we streamlined our reporting, gained insight into using ClearPoint as a customer, and discovered room for improvement in the features we already know and love.
Our meeting cadence
To understand how we approach reporting, it's helpful to understand a little about how we are organized. While individuals wear many hats in our growing organization, we try to organize around four departments: 1) Customer Success, 2) Marketing and Sales, 3) Product Management, and 4) Local Government.
We meet briefly once a week as a full team to get on the same page for any critical activities we are working on that week. Then, each month, we have meetings for each department, and the department heads meet to make sure we are working cross-functionally. Finally, we review our strategy in full each quarter as a company.
The below is an image of what it looks like on paper, and while there are a lot of meetings on the calendar, most are less than an hour and involve 5 people or less.
The weekly meeting
The full team meets every Monday morning to discuss the week ahead. Following the weekly roundup, we run through either service deliverables (setup and training) or our upcoming opportunities—on alternating Mondays—so the whole team gets updated on both customers and prospects twice a month.
In addition to our weekly meetings, each of our four teams meets once a month. Customer Success and Sales & Marketing each meet in the first week of the month, while Product Management and Local Government have their meetings in the second week of the month. From there, the leaders of these groups meet to ensure alignment in the 3rd week of the month.
In addition to the meetings outlined above, our entire team meets following the end of each quarter to review the past quarter and our strategy and to plan for the months ahead.
How each division is using ClearPoint to save time & effort
Now that you've seen how our meetings are structured, let's take a look at how each division is using ClearPoint to take the manual work out of meetings and improve our alignment around our strategy.
Our customer success director has quite a bit going on; from directing our Customer Success team to managing some of our largest clients and overseeing our customer support efforts, he is always juggling. With so many hats to wear, he could use a little help from ClearPoint to automate some of the monthly work of meeting coordination.
Here's how ClearPoint's helping out with Customer Success:
- We have multiple scorecards in ClearPoint, just for Customer Success. One tracks our proactive and reactive response (how well are we doing as a help desk). Another tracks our service deliverables, like setup and training sessions. A third group of scorecards track our long-term customer success (how are our clients are doing in achieving the strategic goals they set out when they purchased ClearPoint.)
- Twice a month, before the Monday meetings where we discuss service deliverables, a scheduled reminder goes out to the Customer Success team to remind everyone to update their setup and training projects in advance of the meeting.
- Once a month, a week before our monthly Customer Success meeting, a reminder like the one shown below goes out for the team to pull data on our metrics. We have added a second schedule on this reminder so that those who haven't made their updates three days before the meeting are sent a second reminder.
- Each quarter, we’ve scheduled a reminder to go out to the team to ask for updates on how each customer is doing. A second schedule on the reminder goes out a few days later. This gives us some insight into whether we need to have one more check in call for that client who is falling short of the goals they set for implementing ClearPoint.
As this process evolves, Customer Success is looking to see if it makes sense to add custom notifications, for example:
- Sending the director notifications when his top 10 monthly measures have been updated and are ready for review.
Here's what extra functionality Customer Success would like to see down the line:
- Relative schedules. In an ideal world, our director would be able to build schedules relative to a still-undefined meeting date. He knows, for example, that he wants an initial reminder to go out one week before a meeting and a second reminder to go out three days before. But until he defines his exact meeting date, he can't set up these schedules. In the future, he'd love to have the ability to build a schedule template with relative dates for reminders without needing to specify a meeting date ahead of time. (Of course, we would need a placeholder date because a week before “undefined” is…. “undefined?” Anyway, we would like those dates to change when our placeholder becomes defined.)
Like Customer Success, Sales and Marketing (known internally as “Smarketing”) is all about #GettingStuffDone. Whether it's coordinating our blog and SEO strategy, tracking our leads, spearheading our responses to RFPs, or just managing the sales pipeline, our manager's to-dos run longer than your average grocery list.
Here's how Smarketing uses ClearPoint:
- Smarketing has three scorecards in ClearPoint. We use one to actively manage our KPIs and key projects and a second to track all of the ideas that we don’t have the bandwidth to execute on at the moment. Ideas stay in this second scorecard until they are fully fleshed out and ready to go. The third scorecard tracks our inbound marketing strategy and is updated by our marketing partners at Nectafy, who have editor access to this scorecard in particular.
- In anticipation of the monthly Smarketing meeting on the 6th, automated reminders go out on the first of the month asking the team to update all measures and initiatives by the end of the day on the 2nd.
- We use ClearPoint to also send a reminder out to the team to update information in our Marketing software, HubSpot (ClearPoint is not a CRM after all).
- The Briefing Book that serves as the pre-read for the meeting is scheduled to automatically generate and be emailed to the team on the 4th of the month at the end of the day.
Here's what extra functionality we look forward to in the future:
- Ability to customize the email that's sent out with the briefing book that serves as pre-reading for the meeting. Our manager says, "Unfortunately, I can’t put a custom message in the email with the briefing book, so I usually forward it from my email to everyone else with a reminder to read it before our meeting."
Here's how Smarketing is fostering alignment with the rest of the team:
- Our Smarketing manager took the lead in connecting with the other division owners to ensure that all projects and goals were linked up with different teams as appropriate. In her own words, "All of my measures and initiatives live in my Smarketing scorecard so that I can send reminders out for monthly meetings and updates. Then, the appropriate ones are linked up to the corporate scorecard and to the Product Management, Local Government, and Customer Success scorecards as needed."
You may know Product Management from the in-app messages about the latest and greatest features in ClearPoint. From coordinating with our Atlanta team to building charters for our new releases to translating feature requests into reality, this group has a lot to keep track of and enough to worry about beyond monthly meeting prep.
As I sat down with our product manager to talk through how he has and will arrange and automate his scorecard, one thing quickly became clear: it's hard to make full use of scheduling features when you don't know your schedule. In the world of product management, with our developers in Atlanta working on new features while also implementing patches for minor bugs as they arise, it turns out it's really hard to gauge how long things are going to take. As a result, meetings are often impromptu, and the release calendar is constantly in flux.
But our product manager's not letting this lack of a predefined schedule hold him back from having ClearPoint make his life easier.
Here's how Product Management is automating ClearPoint:
- The Product Management team has 3 scorecards in ClearPoint. The first one is focused on the product roadmap (including incorporating customer and prospect feedback), release planning, quality assurance, and documentation. The second one captures detailed plans for each major and minor release (like a production Gantt chart). The third one helps us manage our Support Center.
- The Support Center is one area where Product Management and Customer Success need to be closely aligned. To ensure that the Support Center is always up to date to reflect new functionalities, we built a system within ClearPoint for tracking what topics need updating or articles need to be added. To automate the process, we will use custom notifications sent out to article owners to let them know an update needs to be made.
- We also use the initiative feature in ClearPoint to track the major product release process. We release major new features twice a year, and we have an initiative like the one shown below with 25 milestones to track each step of the process.
Here's how the team’s automating outside of ClearPoint:
- With the help of the app Zapier, Product Management has a 'Zap' set up that automatically sends an email to the entire ClearPoint team when new blogs like this one are posted to our site so we can all check out the new content.
- Another Zap lets our onboarding team know when we win new clients. This email notification is triggered from a change in HubSpot and prompts us to assign a team member, begin our onboarding process, and add them to the big map in our hallway that we use to see where all our clients are located.
Here's what we’re hoping to explore in the future:
- Better tracking of the Product Roadmap in ClearPoint. Our individual releases are all dependent on steps being completed. So, when feature development is delayed, or a client finds an issue when viewing the pre-release of the feature, we might delay the next key milestone. Having dependencies to allow for easy adjustments to manage this would be very cool.
- Also, even though we are working on one release at the moment, we’d like to see the status of all of our clients’ ideas for future releases in ClearPoint as well. We’re working on building out that roadmap now.
Last, but certainly not least, is our government community. We have so many clients from local governments that we have built out a separate group within our organization to focus on enhancements and building out our local government network. Our director is passionate about bringing our ClearPoint Community together to connect and share, and with her stellar direction, we're already expanding and learning so much more about the value we can and do bring to our local government clients.
Here's how our Local Government team is leveraging ClearPoint:
- We have one Local Government scorecard linked to our enterprise scorecard. Many of the measures and initiatives are linked to and owned by individuals in Product Management, Smarketing, and Customer Success.
- Scheduled reminders are sent out each month for all collaborators to update their measures before each meeting.
- A Briefing Book is automatically sent out as pre-reading before each meeting.
Here's what our director is implementing in the next quarter:
- Notifications to alert her when the end date of any of her projects is approaching so she never needs to worry about missing a deadline. (This is one of the notifications we really recommend to our customers!)
- Potential integrations between HubSpot and ClearPoint to make communicating as a team even simpler. By integrating HubSpot with ClearPoint, we can easily see all the information we need to keep our community happy and growing. Now we are leveraging hyperlinks between the tools, and in the future, we'll be exploring options for further integrations.
Here's how Local Government is fostering alignment across the organization:
- Incorporating reporting direct from Smarketing and Product Management on the Local Government scorecard.
- Sales reports on our responses to RFPs, which bring new local government clients into our Community.
- Product Management reports on the number of product enhancements driven by local government needs.
- Local Gov is also partnering with Customer Success to plan our local community meetings and track attendance. This move toward greater alignment will likely also entail automation, as we are hoping to pull attendance data for ClearPoint Community meetings directly from Eventbrite and/or HubSpot into ClearPoint initiatives like the one below.
Automating as an Organization
Monthly Leaders' Meeting
The monthly leaders' meeting is a new addition to our meeting structure, created as an opportunity for furthering alignment across the organization. In this monthly meeting, Customer Success, Smarketing, Product Management, and Local Government leaders meet to discuss what's going on at the organization-wide level and ensure that everyone is informed of relevant goings-on within each division. While automation around this meeting is still being decided upon, it will likely entail the automatic generation of a briefing book that will be sent to the leaders as pre-reading in advance of the discussion. At a minimum, we want our leaders to review the department scorecards so that when we come to the meeting there are no surprises.
The Quarterly Review
With weekly and monthly meetings chugging along near-effortlessly with ClearPoint's help, the final step was automating our preparations for each quarterly review meeting. We try to keep these meetings simple, so during the meeting, we review our strategy map, and try to stay at the objective level. We pull out appropriate information from measures and projects onto the objective page.
Here's the automation we set up to run each quarter:
- A scheduled reminder goes out to measure and initiative owners to update their information first. We need the data from measures and projects to help us with the overall evaluation. Fortunately, many of these measures and projects are on the department scorecards, so they are already updated based on the meetings occurring earlier in the quarter.
- Another scheduled reminder goes out to objective owners after measures and initiatives have been updated. A second schedule on this reminder is sent out several days later only to objective owners who have yet to make their updates.
- We automatically send out a Briefing Book with pre-read material to the full team two days before the meeting. Again, we’re not a fan of surprises, and there is no reason to tell everyone what happened if they can read about it in advance. The pre-read material helps us have more productive meetings.
Here's what we may also automate down the line:
- Post-meeting action items. As of now, we have one assigned note-taker for each quarterly review who sends a summary of the meeting to the team along with any action items that emerged during the discussion. In the future, we may have the note-taker add these to-dos as action items in ClearPoint instead. We can then take advantage of automatic notifications for owners when the deadline for each action item is approaching.
The Path Ahead
With all the time we're saving thanks to ClearPoint automation, who knows what the rest of the year will bring! We're looking forward to refining our processes alongside the improvements we're continually making to the tool itself and continuing to partner with our clients to help them get as much value from the tool as possible.
Let us know what you think, and if you are doing similar things, we’d love to hear about them.