Andy Snow
Andy Snow Jan 17, 2019

Five ways savvy banks make successful software transitions

Implementing enterprise software is … hard.

In fact, little about the process qualifies as easy. That’s why so many companies—banks, credit unions and even manufacturers—delay tech changes, even when efficiency, growth and sometimes survival are at stake. Firms worry they might spend scarce dollars and labor hours to implement and adopt something that will fail to achieve the desired results.

Obviously, best-in-class technology partners make implementation less stressful and cumbersome through their competency and actions. After years of working with financial institutions on software implementation, I’ve found that institutions with the smoothest transitions and the best results share certain approaches. They not only help savvy banks and credit unions avoid nightmare software transitions, but also help them lead their peers.

So how do banks and credit unions avoid technology train wrecks?

They leverage executive support

An enterprise software change initiative needs endorsement at the highest levels of the organization—whether that means the CEO, the board or both—because it often demands a sizeable investment meant to resolve a major issue. At banks and credit unions with the most success, implementation is dead center on the executive’s radar and they expect full organizational participation.

Scott Cattanach, CEO of Peoples State Bank in Wausau, Wisconsin, had a sense of urgency to get his software transition completed. He named a strong executive sponsor, senior credit officer Jared Morris, who made it clear to staff that he wanted the project completed quickly. That’s something we typically recommend institutions do: Name an executive sponsor who can ensure staffing resources are committed to get the technology running and staff trained appropriately. The longer an implementation is deferred, the more risk threatens the project’s goals. A fully engaged organization with executive support reduces those risks.

They know the goals

Banks and credit unions that successfully implement enterprise software take the time to identify and understand the problem before they pick a solution. If you don’t spend time doing that before you act, you may embark on an irrelevant project or enlist the wrong technology provider. Successful implementations define problems and set goals. They say, “Here’s our situation today and here’s where we want to be tomorrow.” That makes it easier to assess solutions and potential partners: to tell your team why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you’ll do it. The problem defined and the desired future state form the blueprint for evaluating the project and future decision-making. That’s because you’ve defined what you want out of the change or initiative. You’ve documented what a successful outcome looks like.

They transcend the status quo

Financial institutions can fall into a huge trap when they assume that current processes should be automated as-is—and magically cure inefficiency. But successful banks and credit unions use software change as an opportunity to re-examine current processes and why they do certain things. That way, they can see whether an approach needs modification before automation. Tech implementation often marks the best time to:

  • identify process pain points
  • resolve them
  • tackle administrative bottlenecks
  • identify opportunities for increased revenue

They possess a “burn the ships” mentality

This harkens to the story of the military commander who ordered his crew to destroy their ships so they had no choice but to conquer or be conquered. While not nearly that extreme—software and warfare are two separate things entirely—a successful implementation of enterprise software borrows from that attitude. The victors think: “This will work; we will make it work, and we plan to use it.”

Of course, some banks and credit unions want to phase in the solution or have certain needs that require something beyond flipping a switch so everyone can use the same system. But ultimately, savvy institutions nail down a deadline to kick off the new solution so each person has a stake in learning how to use it and making sure it works for them. This is important operationally and psychologically. If some of your loan officers aren’t originating loans in the new system, it slows work downstream and robs the institution of the efficiency and insight the project intended.

They own the training

Obviously, the software provider is responsible for training resources to get the bank’s employees familiar with the technology. The most successful implementation teams, however, embrace an ongoing training commitment. They understand that their employees will teach new hires and deal with most day-to-day user questions. Some will create their own manuals and “cheat sheets” to bring employees up to speed more quickly. Other institutions appoint resident experts of operating groups. In other words, they make it a point to understand the solution and educate others about it. Simply put, they own it.

Choosing the right tech partner certainly goes a long way toward easing implementation anxiety. Using the approaches above can maximize your purchase through smoother and often faster process. After all, whether picking an optimal solution or a running a top-notch implementation, it’s all about getting with the program.


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Andy Snow is vice president of implementation at Abrigo (formerly Sageworks).

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