The balanced scorecard (BSC) is a tool that’s been used for many years to measure strategic, operational, and financial performance. The concept behind the BSC is simple: a company and/or business unit prioritizes a set of 15 to 20 financial and non-financial metrics across four quadrants linked to the company’s market and operations strategy in order to measure and manage performance. While the BSC is a good organizing framework and remains relevant today, it needs a major shift to be effective in a SaaS/subscription world where traditional BSC measures don’t adequately gauge and predict performance. SaaS companies have a constant window into how customers use the company’s products as well as an opportunity to gain insight and add value at continuous customer touch points. When harnessed correctly, this knowledge can be used to form close, profitable, and predictable long-term customer relationships.

 

Introducing the subscription scorecard

To better address the dynamics of a subscription / SaaS business model, the BSC needs to be “rebalanced” with customer success at the center driving Financial Value. In turn, Innovation and Operations measures are reoriented around driving Customer Success.

 

New metrics for the subscription scorecard 

The metrics within each of the four subscription scorecard categories will vary based on the company’s strategy, priorities and starting point. However, through our client casework and research, we advise that most of the following metrics should be used to manage and predict performance in a SaaS world.

 

Financial value  

The financial value category measures the economic value of a subscription model and needs to consider customer adoption, growth rate, operating margin and cash flow over multiple years.

Customer success 

Customer success is measured on a more granular basis beyond simple aggregate customer satisfaction and/or Net Promoter Scores.

Innovation velocity 

Innovation velocity measures the rate the company delivers new and continuing value to customers.

Operations quality 

 Operations quality metrics are oriented around measuring organizational performance and efficiency and go beyond “table stakes” operating metrics of uptime, support response time and performance against SLAs, etc.

 

Taking action on the subscription scorecard 

Software company executives, whether leading a pure-play SaaS company or migrating the company’s offerings from on-premises to cloud, need to mobilize action around the subscription scorecard. This mobilization varies based on the starting point, but typically entails the following:

  1. Prioritize and Standardize Subscription Scorecard Metrics 
    Set five priority metrics for each of the four scorecard categories with clear definitions based on the company’s strategy, priorities and key initiatives.
  2. Retool Business Reporting and Analytics Approach
    Establish a subscription analytics group that sets and drives system priorities, determines a data and measurement approach, provides data visualization and reporting cadence and manages ongoing business user requirements.
  3. Leverage the Subscription Scorecard to Manage and Predict Performance
    Progressively embed the subscription scorecard into planning, budgeting and operating performance management. Operationally, the subscription scorecard should be used to foresee and head off retention issues, anticipate future customer product needs and identify customers who represent high probability upsell/cross-sell opportunities. Strategically, the subscription scorecard should strive to establish correlations between the different subscription scorecard categories (e.g., correlation between customer success metrics and financial value metrics, operations quality metrics and customer success metrics, and/or innovation velocity metrics and customer success metrics).

Regardless of whether a software company needs to build an analytics-based management approach or is already collecting data and needs to extract value from it, the subscription scorecard is an organizing framework that can be leveraged to great effect in maximizing customer success and driving corporate value. With software leading the way, more and more industries are embracing the subscription model and propelling the overall rise of the subscription economy. Given its broad applicability to this movement, the subscription scorecard and its emphasis on customer success will be relevant for many years to come.

 

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About the Authors
Mark Hauser

Mark Hauser is Founder and Managing Director at Waterstone. Mark advises high profile enterprise technology companies and investors with a specialization in creating value by architecting and delivering bundled technology and service offerings to drive a compelling customer experience and profitable growth.

Andrew Loulousis

Andrew Loulousis is a former Manager at Waterstone, and he also contributed to this article. Andrew advised clients on a number of key strategic issues including growth planning, operations improvement, outsourcing, new product design and launch, customer success strategy and design and acquisition diligence.