How to Ensure Your Software Implementation Goes Smoothly

Software implementation can be challenging. That’s particularly true for private equity and venture capital firms, where getting software solutions up and running efficiently and effectively is critical. Allow the process to drag or do a poor job of ensuring user adoption and you can miss out on deals. 

Consequently, it’s important to understand how to conduct a software implementation the right way and to take a methodical approach when you’re ready to put the solution in place.

Relate the System to Your Business Processes

Too often, firms neglect to talk about how a new fund management software system will integrate with their current business processes. But it’s important to consider both a solution’s technical capabilities and how those features will be used in your setting before you begin your software implementation.

It’s also crucial that you address both aspects when providing “how-to” training. The last thing you want is for users to say, “I see how it functions. But how does it support what we do?” 

For example, as part of your software implementation, it’s important to talk about how deals flow through the system. In addition to teaching users how to access and navigate it, you must also walk through things like:

  • The different ways deals come in—through intermediaries, for instance
  • How users should log deals into the system
  • Who gets alerted about the new deal
  • How important information is circulated internally
  • Who is responsible for acting on the information

 

A good approach is to prepare for your software implementation by identifying the five most important processes that your team will use it for. Get users together and discuss not only how those processes will be handled in the system but also how the software can streamline and simplify that process so that it’s done better or more efficiently after the switch than it is today.

The First Two Weeks After a Software Implementation Are Critical

Research has shown that what happens in the first two weeks after a software implementation has a significant effect on long-term software adoption. If you can get users to log in daily during the first two weeks, that’s a great start. Through frequent exposure to the system’s features and function, they start to understand its value.

Soon, they’re searching for information, running reports, adding data, etc., and doing so with greater efficiency than in your old system. As a result, these actions come with “rewards” in the form of time savings that encourage users to continue exploring the system. And not only do they start to rely on the solution, but they also become advocates that encourage others to learn about its advantages.

If, on the other hand, users don’t get on board in the first few weeks following a software implementation, the odds of them ever leveraging the tool effectively drop significantly—and the work a firm puts into promoting adoption of the solution in the weeks and months that follow quickly starts having diminishing returns. 

Promoting Early Adoption

So, how do you go about getting people to log into the new solution following your software implementation? The key is to have a carefully considered and executed plan.

It should include:

  • Designating an internal “champion” to promote the system in meetings, in casual conversations, etc.
  • Having a system administrator review user login history daily and report the stats to those responsible for the software implementation so that they can nudge reluctant users
  • Having the champion and other early adopters model behavior like generating and sharing reports from the system to encourage others to log in
  • Making the system and its features a point of emphasis in everything from meetings to casual conversations

 

Software implementations and achieving a high rate of system adoption don’t have to be difficult. As long as you have a strategy in place before the new solution is launched, you can ensure that your team members quickly understand the benefits of the system and start capitalizing on its features to make their work easier and improve the firm’s operations. 

And, of course, your software implementation will go much smoother if you’re moving to the right system!

A traditional crm was built for general ‘customer’ scenarios

Software platforms have made the world a better place by making work a better place. Indeed the world is better off when people enjoy their jobs even marginally more, and workplace applications on big CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have done that and much more.

But the potential that platforms like these offer presents diminishing returns: once the platform provider has engineered too many industry specific components into its platform, its usefulness for other industries begins to be threatened, and with that so do the usefulness of the component tools built into the platform.

So it is with the CRM category that Salesforce.com has defined: it is generic enough to work for many industries, and yet still offers the potential for others to round off the edges and nail more vertically-oriented and extremely tailored software solutions.

Private capital markets are actually a great demonstration of this dynamic. Where generic CRM platforms simplify — appropriately so — to assume there’s a business, a customer, a sale, and service of that customer, there are a few industry-specific pieces that are missing.

Take for example, that investors become customers by investing through legal entities the GP raises. It’s a subtle but important nuance that just doesn’t make sense at a platform-as-a-service level (because it’s overly complicated for a simple one-time sale that many industries require), but which can easily be added without 10 years or software engineering. Once provided, the rest of the platform’s components become tremendously powerful again and you’re set to take over the world.

As a traditional CRM in our pillars methodology, these nuances must be present to properly account for investors in these legal entities, potential target companies and which are owned by these entities, the context of all interactions with these parties (as well as the appropriate overlap, ie co-investments), and how you’re arriving at finding these opportunities on both sides of the equation, such that you’re able to piece together what’s effective and what’s not. Not just because we say so, but because these are the very relationships and data that are key to the motivation behind a CRM in any industry.

It’s critical, too, that the valuable publicly-available information that helps to enrich CRM systems and save users painful steps of entering it themselves is fully-integrated at the platform level.

Again, look no further than the 3,000+ pre-built integrations that Salesforce.com — the creator of the CRM platform concept — has at a platform level to do so, and which only exists by way of holding just short of overly-specifying certain industry workflows that would present challenges to properly integrate.

Stakeholder reporting and communication (investor relations) draws on a range of datasets

The traditional “customer service” model of CRM systems once again makes overly-simplified assumptions about the customer relationship when applied to private capital markets.

In fifteen years I personally have yet to hear the terms “warranty” or “service call” in this market because it’s just not the same. But make no mistake, as uncomfortable as it may be to say aloud, customer service is more important now than ever and it’s constantly happening; the industry is, after all, considered to be a financial “service”.

As it turns out, that service is primarily information-based — it’s driven by data and takes the form of reports and analysis that drive decisions, and then end up again in investor-facing reports and analysis.

The foundational elements of a private capital markets CRM must be built such that they accommodate this data (like we discussed above), but so too that it can accommodate additional supporting data that investors (customers!) need in the context of service.

Oftentimes this supporting data — financial metrics and time-based values, for example — is believed not to meet the traditional definition of CRM and the natural thought is “well, better do this in Excel!”.

While I happen to believe Excel is still the greatest software application ever built, its introduction to this value chain we’ve discussed herein actually creates the problem many firms suffer from: key data needed to provide customer service (again: effectively the entirety of a firm’s reports and analysis) is now in disparate systems and detached.

Both of those dynamics are important and distinct: not only is this supplemental data disparate, but when brought together there is no logical association that can be made between the two data sets.

Allow me, then, to make the point very simply: not only can this financial and time-based value data (you may be thinking about is as “portfolio monitoring” or “accounting”) be a part of a CRM, it is arguably the most important part of a CRM because it’s at the core of what providing service to the customer entails — information that comes out of data!

Firms need a digital method to engage stakeholders (ie investor portals)

Investor portals are not new; in fact, for many of us — including myself — they conjure up horrifying nightmares in which we’re aimlessly guessing at folders to find the newest document we need.

So in lies the opportunity: not only have the portals we’ve come to hate not simplified the process of acquiring information, they’ve failed to create an entirely new experience that is “customer service” driven.

To be fair, this is not a B2C market where you’d be long out of business for not having focused on customer service and thus the customer’s technology-driven experience. But don’t expect to be around too much longer if you aren’t thinking about this shift.

Today’s institutional investors increasingly expect this same consumer-like experience, and a massive opportunity is being missed by not providing it. It’s not about providing them the experience they desire; it’s more about the ability to measure engagement that is had in return.

Put simply: what’s keeping the market from providing this experience is the availability of the information that’s required to create the service that provides the experience.

If you’ve hung in this long, you know that by focusing on your CRM, you have the data that’s required to manage the customer relationship and the technology-driven experience through which that information is shared to create a differentiated and opportunistic customer experience.

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