Leading for Success: How to Differentiate in the Private Equity Crowd – Part I

Jill MonteraHow can Private Equity firms differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market? To explore the process by which fund managers and institutional investors can achieve differentiation on the “path to the top,” I interviewed Jill Montera, VP of Customer Success at Altvia. The discussion is being presented in a series of blog posts to capture the breadth and depth of this timely topic. Since 2015, Altvia has been deepening its customer success focus – can you share what the primary goal is for Private Equity customers? For customer success, our primary goal is delivering value for clients’ Private Equity software solution. And delivering value is not a one-time event; it’s iterative over the customer’s journey. Making sure your system is evolving as your business grows so that it’s fresh and relevant. Providing new solutions to increase productivity and further integrate data into a holistic picture. Our focus is to ensure that the system really works for our customers’ people and processes. Now, let’s segue to the customer journey towards “differentiation” – how do you typically approach this journey? We start with systems and processes that engage. Two key words: systems and processes. You’ve bought the Private Equity software system. Now it’s about understanding and creating the business processes and then aligning the system to those processes. Sometimes there is a tendency to jump to the “end game” of your desired outcomes – and while we can appreciate the anticipation, our job is to help lay the foundation on which to build for the future so that the system and processes are continuously advanced for alignment with the customer’s goals. How does your methodology work (as a SaaS-based company)? First, systems don’t define processes. Processes should define systems. The processes include:
  • What do we do – i.e., how are we capturing data
  • Who does what for these processes
  • Are we all aligned to that vision
  • Are we all following these processes
Putting in the work early and often is essential to this stage of the foundation building. There are two key steps that leadership teams must take in order to systemize their core processes. The first is to identify, simplify and document all of the core processes within the business. The second step is to ensure that everyone in the organization follows these processes. The key outcome of this stage is to get buy-in from all levels of the organization, and commit to creating and using a system as well as refining the processes that align to that system. What challenges for Private Equity firms are typically experienced in this phase towards differentiation, and how can they be resolved? One challenge, in particular, is that folks want to jump right to the desired outcome – just like the “lose weight fast” or “get rich quick.” You can’t jump to the end without doing the work at each stage of the journey. So we work closely with customers to dial in the core processes as this foundation will set the customer up for success. Team engagement is a key challenge as well. Establishing the processes and system that lead a Private Equity firm towards differentiating itself in a highly competitive market is clearly a team effort. As the foundation is built, team engagement is the catalyst for adoption. It’s cultural and it’s pivotal. Once the culture embraces the new processes, then the system can be built to support and drive these processes. As a customer success organization, the path towards resolution is really geared towards:
  • First, we will work to understand the key stakeholders during the buying and onboarding process. Without buy-in from all levels of the organization, onboarding will not go as well as possible.
  • Second, we will work to understand your objectives. This can often be the translation between the systems and the processes. If we better understand objectives, we can help drive accountability and value.
  • Third, we will focus on training and adoption. Good systems and processes are only as good as the people who use them.
  • Lastly, coming out of the onboarding, we will identify next steps and objectives for focus.
Can you share a Private Equity customer example? Customers that have the greater success have clear and well-developed processes. Once these are dialed in, then they layer on the technology to automate and optimize. The foundation is so critical that if it’s not done correctly then there are typically repercussions in the coming months and years. One customer who is doing a particularly great job with this is a US-based buyouts-focused fund of funds with $5B under management. They ensure that everyone knows and follows a process and the system supports every step. Usage is strong throughout the organization, regardless of title. The managing partners are some of the most active users and it’s not just as a reference tool, they are regularly enriching the data and ensuring that decisions are made with accurate information. What are the key takeaways for Private Equity firms? While I can think of a number of takeaways, here are the ones that can really make an impact for this first phase of building the foundation for differentiation:
  • Get alignment and excitement across the organization. Answer ‘why’ for all roles so they know why it’s so important. Gain shared commitment.
  • Start with your processes and make sure they are defined, understood and followed across the organization
  • Once the processes are defined, work with Altvia on customizing your system. Include stakeholders at all levels that can help drive engagement with their peers.
  • Once the system is live, commit to making the system great. The key to these systems getting off the ground is 110% commitment to populating the data, making it complete, making it accurate, and using the system regularly. Capture as much as you are able and don’t be as concerned with all that you will get out of the system (analytics and discoveries). Those days are coming…it’s about getting started and bringing the Private Equity software solution to life.
About Jill: Jill Montera joined Altvia in 2008 with many years of experience working in higher education and in management consulting where she led large-scale technology implementations for Fortune 500 companies in the telecommunications and energy industries. At Altvia, Jill leads Customer Success, and loves working directly with clients to help them find long-term and ongoing value. In her free time, Jill volunteers with various education non-profit organizations. She enjoys spending time in the Colorado outdoors with her husband and 2 sons hiking, skiing, running and watching soccer. Jill also loves travel and has visited 6 of the 7 continents.