Successful Tech Implementations Are About People, Not Platforms


To set the stage for a successful technology implementation, it takes more than just training your staff or setting up a platform. You also need to understand your firm’s strategy, culture and people—and know how the new technology will enhance all three.

Increased competition, shifting customer expectations and more diligent enforcement of expanding regulation are making the commercial lending space a tougher place to do business.

It’s true that commercial loan growth is expected to hit 11 percent in 2016. That impressive growth belies a challenging market environment. In truth, lower interest rates and higher costs of doing business are squeezing lenders’ margins. To paraphrase an old joke: Financial institutions need to avoid losing money on every loan, while “making it up in volume.”

Financial institutions that want to avoid becoming a punchline are responding strategically, investing in core technologies and leveraging the new analytical capabilities of solutions to drive product-level profitability.

Due to the increased cost of doing business and the need to operate in a leaner environment, most financial institutions do not possess the internal expertise needed to properly plan and execute enterprise-wide process change. This lack of experience leads to longer success rate times and reduced buy-in by end users and management.

According to the technology and consulting firm CEB, a vast portion of business-led technology adoption happens without the input of information technology, with nearly half of originators saying they are willing to forgo quality for speed. This lack of planning is showing up in the final output. Eighty-five percent of the “stall points” in the adoption of new technology result from a lack of planning, with just 15 percent related to issues around the implementation itself.

So, what are the steps that your financial institution needs to take to ensure the success of your implementation?

Identify What Change is Needed: The institution needs to have a clear idea of what needs to change, and the metrics by which the success of the change will be measured. To make this happen, it’s important to have an executive steering committee, to get senior-level buy-in around a common goal.

Organize the Core Team: Next, it’s important for the institution to assemble a wide variety of cross-functional teams to allow free-thought around how paradigms at the firm could change. Effective tech implementations mean new processes, not just swapping one platform for another. To ensure that those paradigms work across the organization, everyone who will interact with the new system needs representation. For a commercial implementation, this means including representatives from the front line, such as relationship managers, all the way to the back-office, such as loan processors.

Choose a Champion: Financial institutions have to make a careful choice of the person who will be the face of change. The final candidate should be a strong communicator who can explain the benefits of the change to everyone in the organization.

Thoroughly Scope Business Requirements: Conduct a full scoping and planning session with your technology provider to understand business rules, as well as the existing systems and processes that need to change as a result of implementation.

Identify Key Implementation Resources: The financial institution needs to allocate the correct resources to maximize productivity and efficiency throughout the implementation. The creation of an implementation steering committee (separate from the executive steering committee we discussed above) can also help minimize design changes that need to occur after the implementation begins. This steering committee should also ensure that the changes have no unintended consequences for the organization.

Create Program/Project Plans: Will the project be an enterprise-wide implementation or focused on a specific area? Is the organization better suited to a waterfall or agile implementation methodology? (A waterfall implementation tends to be linear and sequential, while an agile approach is incremental and iterative, with processes occurring in parallel.) Will the rollout of the new technology be a “big bang” or phased? These issue need to be addressed in advance, along with the standard project timeline.

Most importantly, financial institutions need to work deliberately and efficiently, and avoid hurrying the process. Rushing into a mistake will delay the outcome longer than working slowly and effectively. As they say in the Navy SEALS: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

Careful planning can significantly reduce the amount of time that a financial institution requires for the implementation, and speed up the time to realize the benefits. The key is planning right—from the beginning.

Barry Hall