Limiting Software Implementation Anxiety
Credit unions are traditionally conservative when it comes to adopting new systems and practices – and with good reason. Not only are credit unions complex, but in the event an implementation goes awry, credit unions also face regulatory and legal scrutiny, as well as reputational risk. In fact, financial services regulators have made special note of the importance of vendor management and third-party risk, recently updating 2013 guidance to clarify risk management expectations related to the growing volume, diversity and complexity of third-party relationships, including those with financial technology companies.
The pace of change and the expanding scope of regulatory requirements show no signs of slowing, and credit unions find themselves forced to push ahead in implementing new solutions. Two areas worth examining in the process of vendor selection are the potential partners’ approach to implementation as well as their approach to ongoing support.
Approach to Implementation
The successful implementation of software to address a credit union's challenges – whether related to credit loss estimates or online banking – is largely dependent on the vendor's approach to bringing the client on board. Best-in-class companies use their people, processes and systems integration capabilities to ensure success.
Leadership and communication are critical to proper change management, and vendors that use their own people for implementation and training can provide updates and transparency throughout the entire process. The right partner does not leave the financial institution to download software and figure it out on its own, nor does it outsource the critical process. When implementation is outsourced, it is easy to lose the credit union's original intention when degrees of separation are added between the credit union and vendor.
Rather, the right partner offers staff members with varied and applicable experience to make sure the project stays on track and ease the transition.
Someone learning to ride a bike typically learns first with training wheels, then masters riding without them before tackling changing gears and complex riding situations. In the same way, credit unions can achieve effective software implementation by working with a software partner that takes a consultative, agile approach to help the credit union generate near-immediate value from the solution and build from there.
Leveraging a vendor's best-practice, out-of-the-box workflow templates for specific processes (e.g., loan origination, renewals or loan reviews) that can later be modified as needed means the institution can avoid automating sub-optimal existing processes while quickly beginning usage. A vendor-led training approach in manageable “doses” makes adoption more successful and enables usage advancements that can push through the typical barriers to achieving expected returns.
Integration capabilities that have been developed, iterated and proven over years and over thousands of projects will result in high-quality implementation and stability for the credit union. A vendor that demonstrates flexibility in its ability to integrate with an institution's core systems and to orient its solutions to ongoing regulatory challenges is likely to ease the transition.
The willingness of a vendor to support the customer throughout the product life cycle is a critical factor in successful implementation and client satisfaction. Credit unions considering software should examine the support system for the following characteristics:
Does the software partner have an award-winning, omnichannel support system? Are support options embedded within the application, and do phone and email messages seeking support generate immediate help from qualified, easy to understand staff? Vendors that encourage all employees (not just those in customer service roles) to own client satisfaction ensure that concerns or issues will be resolved quickly and with the consulting or product staff resources required to address them.
Software-as-a-Service clients must be successful and satisfied today if they are to renew service tomorrow. Vendors that recognize this will help clients not only with initial training but also with remedial training of staff. Users should be able to follow up on unique concerns – without being billed for every minute/contact.
The right software partner also takes a proactive approach to support. For example, a vendor that monitors file transfers or other processes during integration to make sure they occur when expected is able to flag unusual breaks in the process that might cause delays or other problems.
Industry regulations and best practices constantly evolve, so a vendor that has experts anticipating upcoming needs can quickly develop appropriate solution enhancements. Enhancements are communicated rapidly and through multiple avenues. The right software partner provides ongoing opportunities (user groups, workshops, industry-wide conferences, networking events, etc.) for education and for collaborative discussions.
Credit unions must constantly balance risk and opportunity in their operations, and should seek to do the same when it comes to selecting a technology partner. Examining a prospective partner's approach to implementation and its approach to supporting client needs after the sale can help financial institutions reduce the stress and uncertainty related to the adoption of enterprise software solutions.
Mary Ellen Biery is a Research Specialist at Sageworks. She can be contacted at 984-242-2578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.