ShiftLeft Tales — Reducing PoV onboarding times from few weeks to less than 5 minutes!

ShiftLeft Tales — Reducing PoV onboarding times from few weeks to less than 5 minutes!

ShiftLeft Product/Engineering team latest product re-design reduced our product demo & onboarding timelines from weeks to less than 5 minutes. We achieved this by some smart product design and some automation. Read on to learn more.

If you want to experience ShiftLeft latest product experience, register here for a free account here.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Problem statement

Our technical sales cycles were long. On an average it took an average of just 20–30 days to get the initial set up before a prospect started to see the results of an application for their product.

Historically, much of our technical sales cycles followed a process broadly like the following (pretty standard for most SAST vendors)

For the un-initiated, most of the process is about coordinating time & people. Broadly, it is about the following

  1. Having the right folks for each of the call
  2. Sales Engineer needs to perform optimally each time, every time
  3. Ensure technical integrations with prospect’s infrastructure (CI/CD system and Git integration ) go smoothly each time, every time. You also need the right permissions, firewall approvals (if required) and finally the right folks to investigate technical issues on prospect’s infrastructure etc. etc.
  4. App selection is a major decision from a prospect perspective and once the application is submitted, code analysis results should be good and satisfy customer’s success criterion.
  5. Off-course prospects are also soaking in the proof of concept/value experience.

What was our Goal?

Our obvious goal was to cut down proof of value (POV) timelines significantly.

If on average a POV takes 60 days followed by a standard post-PoC sales cycle of 45–60 days, you are looking at a total sales process that would naturally stretch over at-least 2 quarters if not more.

However, if you could cut the PoV timelines by a month (30 days), you will ensure that you can start and conclude a sales opportunity in a single financial quarter. For the same amount of salespersons in your team, suddenly your yield per salesperson becomes higher per quarter. In simple terms more revenue per quarter.

We zeroed-in on the initial on-boarding of our solution where we could optimize significantly. Like by hoping to cut 30 days from the overall sales cycle

Design principles

Before one sets on a goal to design a new system, it is important to get your design principles in order. For us, specifically for onboarding, we adopted following principles

  1. Reduce work
  2. Reduce points of interaction & ask less questions
  3. Educate user by have them do things
  4. Give user satisfaction at the end of a task
  5. Don’t just say problems, but also provide answer (step 1 again — reduce work)

An article that influenced us and helped us clear up design choices is this.

What changes did we make?

It was a messy process to arrive at our eventual solution. There were impassioned arguments, point of contentions, beliefs but overall a lot of hard work. Eventually, we agreed upon the following.

  1. If Users can do it themselves, let them do it — A self guided experience is most authentic, no sales engineer mediated demo and product experience can replicate the emotional impact of a self-serve workflow
  2. No NDA — Getting the folks to sign an NDA so early in the process is a relic of the past. A simple checkbox style ToS agreement is good enough.
  3. Auto Configure CI/CD — Do not ask a first time user to configure their CI/CD systems. Do it for them. Users wants to see your product in action, see value very early on. Once they have seen value, their commitment level increases and they would be happy to do further customization by themselves.
  4. Give users app options for analysis — By default, do not ask users to find a good app for them to analyze. Present them good pre-configured choices first before asking them to choose their own applications. Remembers users are still creating first impressions, they need to feel motivated to invest that additional effort.
  5. Educate users by encouraging them to do their first analysis — We settled on a limited numbers of tasks — Encourage them to analyze their first app and while they are waiting for results, walk them through the product.
  6. No success criterion (at the start) — Mind you, success criterions are important, but they are slightly useless before users have experienced your product. In an enterprise PoC, prospects may have been educated by your competition. You need to delight users with your cool features, in turn having success criterions that take into account what you have to offer. Be Smart!
  7. Get to the results, Fast — By configuring CI/CD system automagically and providing users with a choice of demo apps across all languages, eliminating NDA and success criterion, we ensured that user would experience a good outcome fast (mostly with in the first five minutes).

Finally, and most importantly, you cannot put a lipstick on a pig to make it look different. We were able to take all of these decisions, because ShiftLeft code analysis technology is blazing fast. Our whole effort in nutshell was to have the users experience this speed and quality, as early in their Shiftleft experience.

Our bet was that if user experience emotional closure by seeing results fast, they will remain with you.

The outcome

Here is how our new technical sales process looked now. It now starts with users onboarding themselves ( in a self serve or guided mode) and let the product directly interact with users.

And our full automation (with a demo app or with a custom app) now looks like this.

With the above full automation introduced in July of 2020, we were able to significantly reduce the total amount of time required for onboarding (in a single setting) from an average of 5 hours to less than 5 minutes

In a multi-setting POV scenario, which is the most usual case, the reductions were also very significant. The onboarding time (in a multi setting scenario) has on average reduced by 1/6th from an average of 30 days to just 5 days.


No two products have same automation paths and similar design challenges. However, some design ideas could be utilized in a different setting.

If you want to experience ShiftLeft latest product experience, register here for a free account here.

ShiftLeft Tales — Reducing PoV onboarding times from few weeks to less than 5 minutes! was originally published in ShiftLeft Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from ShiftLeft Blog - Medium authored by Alok Shukla. Read the original post at: