Institutional investment firms rely heavily upon technology for their daily operations and investment decisions. Consequently, being able to adopt new software without issues or disruption is crucial to organizational success. But what if you do not have the benefit of an internal IT department? Are you effectively “stuck” with your current or legacy software?
Absolutely not. Implementing software does not depend upon having an IT department – it is a matter of solid planning and execution and is therefore within the grasp of any investment firm. Horsley Bridge, a leading fund-of-funds that DOES have the luxury of an IT department, recently presented their advice on software implementation and adoption to those without a dedicated IT team. Kenneth Lo, Sr. Product Manager, and Jon Roller, Chief Information Officer, shared four insights that any institutional investment team – with or without IT’s help - can put into practice in order to reap the benefits of new software:
1. Assign Ownership
Every successful implementation needs ownership. This begins with an executive sponsor – a respected leader who will keep things moving in the right direction. The sponsor helps solve problems at a high level and makes strategic decisions that are in the firm’s best interest. He or she also owns the budget and keeps everybody accountable.
A product champion may also be named in a software implementation. The product champion serves as the liaison between the management team and the end users, relaying information in both directions. Sometimes the product champion will act as a cheerleader to end users as the software rollout progresses; other times, a more “authoritarian” approach may be required to ensure accountability and compliance.
Software adoption may benefit from the appointment of a super user. Super users need to demonstrate great administrative capabilities and resourcefulness. Their job is to learn everything about the software so that they can pass that knowledge along to other end users.
The people who have ownership of the software adoption process can come from anywhere in your firm. Their “normal” role could be that of an office manager, a finance expert, an account representative, or anything else. All that is necessary to be an owner is a commitment to move the firm forward by driving the software adoption.
2. Choose a Partner, Not A Vendor
Sometimes, a vendor can be just a vendor. But when it comes to evaluating software, look for a true partner where you will be valued as a unique customer rather than being lost in a crowd of clients who are all treated identically and impersonally. Partnership typically includes a dedicated Relationship Manager who understands your firm and your needs, a regular cadence of meetings to dialogue with you and keep you informed, and quarterly check-ins with your ownership team.
Choosing a company that will partner with you around their software brings multiple benefits. First, they recognize that they are the software experts and you are the institutional investment experts. Consequently, they do not expect you to be something you are not – and they take pains to give you everything you need achieve a successful software implementation.
Second, they tend to take a very personal approach to training, including producing product documentation that you can use to train your end users, offering one-on-one sessions, and holding events to boost product knowledge.
Third, they actively solicit and act upon your feedback to add features and enhancements that will improve their product. You literally have a part in the evolution of the product, and can reap all the benefits of successive software versions that incorporate your input.
3. Prioritize Ease of Use
It can be tempting to try to teach every user everything about the new software all at once. In a word: don’t. You want to build ease of use with the software, and that means taking things systematically.
For example, users want to know how to do their job – so show them just that. Do not drop a manual on their desk and expect them to figure it out on their own (they won’t). Do not show them three ways to accomplish the same task (it will just confuse them). Do not go into incredible technical detail on how the software does its job (they don’t care). Just show your users how to do the things they want to do in a simple and straightforward manner.
You may want to create cheat sheets specific to your organization and processes. The software vendor will provide you with great documentation, but you can go one step further to customize that documentation so that it shows your end users exactly how to use the software to get their jobs done in your work environment.
You should also make opportunities to share skills with your end users on a regular basis. For instance, you could put a “tip of the day” on the home screen that users will see when they log in, or you could send a weekly email that talks about a best practice or a time-saving technique. Your users will appreciate learning new ways to save time and increase efficiency.
Accept the fact that there are going to be users who will either “not get it” right away or who will actively resist using the new software properly. Build in automated reports to catch these exceptions, then follow up with those individuals to train them in how to use the software so that everyone experiences the full advantages of the system. Be encouraging, but also authoritative – you only get the software’s benefits when everyone is working in consistent ways.
4. Celebrate Wins and Reinforce Benefits
Lastly, remember that there are always bumps in the road when you are implementing new software. That’s just life. There will be obstacles to overcome, there will be days that are tiring, and there will be people who are frustrated. To maintain enthusiasm and achieve your goals, your implementation team (e.g., executive sponsor, product champion, and super users) should be sure to celebrate small wins along the way and consistently reinforce the features and benefits that matter the most to your users.
If you want to bring in new technology to modernize your investment office, do not hesitate, even if you do not have an internal IT staff. You can drive software adoption successfully with your own people taking the helm – it just takes the right partner, the right solution, and the right approach.