Why Leading Companies Migrate to Purpose-Built Solutions: Pt 3
22 April 2016
Part 3: Learnings and Conclusions
eknow: To frame the value versus the cost, including time and human capital; would you do it again and if ‘Yes’, what might you do differently?
Mark: Yes, we would do it again. The areas where we struggled in implementation, perhaps we’re not spending quite enough time in the definition of what exactly we wanted to do with the tool and exploring, in-depth, all that the tool could do for us. It’s very flexible. We’ve migrated our way into the implementation in a couple of ways. The other downside is that the flexibility is such that you end up having your friends and neighbors trying to redesign the system for you real time, “How do I do this? How do I do this?” Having a little bit of discipline to keep things stable so that your user base is not continuously confused is an important thing.
Tiffany: Yes, we would definitely do it again. I would say the one thing we would change that would be different for us as just an internal function is, again, having the capacity and the resource to manage the tool effectively. We didn’t see any problems in our functional area adoption. It was more so on our end. There’s two of us here managing all of the activities, so we are stretched a little bit and not able to manage the tool effectively to be able to use all of the functions and see it to its potential. If we could do it over, I would like to have the ability to have someone, at least part-time, manage the tool. That would make a big difference.
Carla: We will never go back to where we were if I have anything to do with it. The flexibility is both a treasure and it also could be very dangerous because you do end up iteratively trying to do things and if you’re not good in documenting what choices you’ve made, why you made them and the rules that you’ve created behind some of those things, you forget. We would have been probably a little more diligent and we are, in the stuff that we’re implementing now, much more careful about saying, “Oh yeah, let’s just try that,” because we are now in the production environment. That also necessarily changes the dynamics.
If you want to do it well, you don’t want to spend this kind of money and time and effort on something that gets short shrift, because then you can’t follow up with good administration. If we could find a part-time person, someone who, in addition to what they did, could also help things would be even better. We’d absolutely knock it out of the park. As it stands, it’s great for us, but it would be the ‘holy grail’ if we actually had somebody who could take care of a lot of the day to day stuff.
eknow: What advice can you give someone that they should do or shouldn’t do? What kinds of lessons learned can you share that would be valuable for someone on the other side of that fence?
Tiffany: It was a little bit different for us in that our corporate office was already using the eknow tool and that’s where we learned of it from them. Other than spending the past few years working with manual tools and actually building an internal database, we hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at different tools to manage everything. When we learned that our corporate office was using this technology and we had a demo with it, we were thoroughly impressed because it was the first thing I had seen that really met the business development and corporate development process specifically and could also be tweaked to meet your specific needs.
My suggestion would be not only to focus on the tool if you are out there exploring some technologies, but also take a good look at the company and the team you’re working to be working with. What made the big difference for us is the eknow team. There have been times where I’ve needed changes made or documents uploaded and a huge file batch posted in our dashboard and I can give it to them at 4 pm and come back the next morning to my work day and it’s done and complete.
They offer great ideas and they’re very insightful and understand the business development and corporate development function and the process very well. I think that’s taken us a lot further in being able to implement a tool that specifically meets our needs. Also look at users that are already using it and get some feedback from them. And try to learn a little bit about the team you’ll be working with.
Carla: Support from the top. It doesn’t matter what system you put in, whether you’re spending $30,000 or $300,000 or more. You need to make sure that the person who’s actually writing the check understands what it is that they’re buying and believes that it is useful. Any system when it’s implemented has hiccups, has learning challenges, has people who grumble, you may have missed something. You don’t want someone who’s waiting for something to fall to say, “This is a disaster, why did we do this?” I think that’s probably one of the most important things that you want to make sure you have before you go even bothering. Just make sure you’ve got someone who says, “Yup, we think that’s a good idea.”
There are a lot of things that you have to look at before you go and put something in place because it’s a long-term commitment. You’re not just test-driving it. If you don’t like it, in three months, you’re going to throw it away. You’ve already committed yourself to data, to processes, to all kinds of change. You do want to look at the relationship that you’re going to have with that vendor, how much you think you can trust them, how long they’ve been around, how flexible you need them to be, and how flexible you believe they can be.
That was definitely something that we kicked around with multiple different vendors and somewhere discarded for that reason alone. You’re not going to get everything you want in your final solution, but I think you’ve got to shoot for and figure out what your top 30% is. What are your deal breakers? Make sure that you stay true to those and you keep those in mind.
Mark: You have to assess yourself and this is part of the being ready for the tool. Do you have stable processes? While you might be able to use a tool to stabilize your processes, that’s a pretty high-risk situation. If your processes are stable, if you have the high level support, and if the problems that you are facing are solvable by a tool and don’t need some other mechanism like more high level support or something like that, then I think you’re ready. I have too much experience unfortunately with attempting to implement a tool which is a ‘solution looking for a problem’ to solve. That is just setting yourself up for failure. You want to have the problem that the tool solves.
eknow: How did people react when you tried to implement this system other than using the traditional meetings and emails?
Mark: It depends on personality and definitely, I have seen that. I have seen some people that go, “Oh, this is really great,” it’s so straightforward and other people who have said, “This is not intuitive,” and it’s the same tool. I think one of the really neat things, at least from my perspective, is the accountability functionality where if you’re going through diligence or looking at project planning, you can grab one of those charts that’s in there that shows number of overdue tasks or looking at diligence status by owner, so you can see what percentage of tasks are completed by each person who has an ownership. That does wonders for keeping people on track.
Carla: Some of this has to do with why you’re implementing it. Are you implementing for yourself because you need to have visibility or are you implementing it because we have to get these disparate groups of people centered on something consistent.
How you position this. We knew that we needed something internally, so there was no sell job needed. For everybody else, we positioned this as a tool that gives you instant visibility to the same thing everybody else sees. We are here to make sure that it works for you. In that messaging, you’ll still get grumbling and people who say, “Oh, we’ve done a system before. The last one is a failure.” That’s going to happen as part of the past. Some of this is a little bit of therapy. You’ll let them get it out and then you come back with your message again, which is, “We are here to make sure that this works for you and this makes your life easier and not harder.” I think that’s a very important message to put out.
Tiffany: We had a very positive reaction. I think for our users, it was easy for them just given the iMemo tool. It comes right to their inbox, which here we live in Outlook so they like that. They just open the email and click a link and they’re able to input their information at what looks a lot like a spreadsheet. We have lots of positive reaction for the users. For the corporate development and the business development function, again, we just struggle a little bit in having the time and the capacity to manage the tool. That’s what our reactions have been across the board in the two different functions that use it.
eknow: We’d like to summarize some of the key learnings.
- Doing your homework upfront and assessing yourself and assessing the tools, assessing your own readiness seemed to be really important ingredients in determining when and if to make the transition. The fact that there are solutions out there is really good news.
- We heard a lot about the importance of effective communication and the fact that a lot of people who have full time day jobs love the fact that they’re able to interact live through email. They can interact through Outlook or whatever their mail tool is. It is easy for them to do that.
- There were a number of references to compliance and access control, very important ingredients.
- A key topic we heard was system of record. That came out directly and indirectly.
- There was a mention of compliance and the ability to know and to hold people accountable. Also the ability to go back through an audit trail and understand how decisions were made in the past and why certain decisions were made about certain transactions was discussed.
- It’s always important to get support from the top.
- Certainly, in this day of cyber theft, the importance of security is evident One of the motivations that we hear all the time for making a transition is that sending spreadsheets attached to email is just inherently unsecure. Thus, having a secure mechanism for managing the process and managing the communication is really key.
- Yes, there is a considerable amount of work involved but based on the responses and comments from our distinguished panel, well worth it!