Ways To Ensure Your Software Implementation Is A Success

One of the most daunting parts of a software implementation is the first few months that you’re using it. At this point, there’s no guarantee of success even if you’ve done everything right up to this point. To make sure your investment pays off and not be burdened with trying to fix what might turn out to be irreparable problems in the future, take these steps during your initial use period:

Keep your software implementation simple and complete

First, make sure that the fields you decide to track and the data within those fields are simple and complete. Sometimes people try to overdo it and add way too many fields–perhaps even data that they haven’t tracked in the past but that they want to track in the future. This might be a natural reaction to having a shiny new database toy, but it’s unlikely that these 50 new fields are the core fields that you really need to track, nor are they usually the data you’ve been tracking to make yourself successful up to this point.

The result of over-adding fields, then, is twofold. First, pages with too many fields end up looking blank so users get frustrated working in a database that feels incomplete. Second, many of the reports and analytics that you might be able to run based on comprehensive data are not available so when users go running those reports the reports are essentially meaningless. Also very frustrating.

So the key is to keep the initial configuration simple, focus on the core fields and the core data points you want to track, and make sure that all of those fields are populated. Then when users log in for the first few times, the data is strong and it instills confidence in all of your users.

Tips to keep it simple and complete:

1. Start with simple data tracking
2. Keep configuration simple
3. Ensure all fields are populated
4. Stick to the core data points and fields
5. Always make sure there is confidence in your system

Provide the “why”

So often, users end up getting just the technical how-to training but are never told why this is important or how it will make the firm more efficient. So it’s really important both during training and software implementation to talk to users about why changes are being made and what value the company is hoping to get from the system.

Unfortunately, the seemingly menial task of entering good data happens first and often over time. It’s only after that data is in the system that you get the gratification of finally running that one perfect report that tells you everything you never knew.

If users are shown the value of running a report like that and the value of inputting that data upfront, they’re more likely to see the benefits and more likely to be dedicated users.

During the training, it is important to follow these 3 steps:

1. Communicate with Users: Take the time to communicate the value of what you’re implementing and ask for feedback before, during, and after. Let users know why changes are being made and make sure they understand how they can provide input or help out. By letting your staff in on these details, they’ll feel more involved in a system that is designed for them – which will translate into better compliance with new procedures and information entered into the system.

2. Culture Change: Take the time to inform your employees on how their work will change and make sure they understand the benefits of these changes. Make it clear that compliance with new procedures is not just for their benefit but also for the companies as a whole.

3. Manage Expectations: Allow yourself some flexibility in implementing a new system so that you can incorporate feedback from your users and allow them time to adjust to their new environment without expecting too much at once.

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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