Successful Tech Implementation Is a Team Sport

By Anne Henderson

In a world where free two-day shipping is standard, the expectation for “one-click” solutions has become the norm in nearly every industry. These days, people and companies frequently expect a quick, easy, painless and cheap solution to their problem. Unfortunately, quick, easy, painless and cheap coincide about as often as sports teams from a single city win the Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Finals in the same year. (For what it’s worth, that’s never happened.)

However, there are ways to strategically implement solutions that can reduce challenges and bring home championship rings in one or more areas, and they start with both parties being equally committed to implementation success. Just like it takes offense and defense to win a championship, it takes both parties to ensure an implementation occurs smoothly and to everyone’s satisfaction.

For banks onboarding a new vendor, expectations dictate outcomes. So, what should banks expect? More than anything else, banks should expect to fully engage in a partnership with their solutions provider. This is a symbiotic relationship—the more two-way communication that happens, the better the partnership functions. By approaching the process with the right mindset and being prepared to contribute to the overall effort, banks can eliminate many sources of frustration or roadblocks that often derail implementation. With this in mind, let’s examine some communication best practices that can ensure successful, constructive implementation processes.

At the outset, a partner should be able to clearly articulate its solution’s functionality: what it can and cannot do and where it can solve the bank’s problems or lessen pain points. If a partner is vague about how it would apply its solution to address the organization’s issues, either the partner doesn’t fully understand the problem or the solution is not the right fit. For banks, it’s important to be thorough in the description of the problem, trusting partners to help them arrive at strategic solutions. Go deeper when communicating the issue, asking: “What is the problem we’re trying to solve? What gaps are we trying to fill?” Once the problem is clearly articulated down to the root cause, the partner can help determine the best way to approach the system configuration and/or implementation process to truly solve the issue.

Once everyone identifies and is aligned to the best solution and approach, each side must communicate their respective expectations for the implementation process. Banks should be open and honest regarding an expected go-live date, and partners should be equally as transparent regarding their ability to meet this expectation, including the bank’s role in the process to ensure success. After all, players don’t just show up to the Super Bowl ring ceremony and hold out their hands; they put in the work with pre-season practices, regular season games and playoffs. The implementation process is no different.

Partners should be upfront in communicating what they will need from the bank for the implementation to be successful, including the impact to the implementation process and timeline if the bank is unable to complete a task. Yes, the partners should be doing most of the heavy lifting. However, they cannot shoulder the burden alone, and the bank must be prepared to do its part when called upon to keep the process on track. This starts with setting appropriate and reasonable timelines to ensure the bank can manage its necessary day-to-day activities while still working towards change.

Early in the process, the bank should identify affected departments, including the ultimate end users. With these users in mind, the partner should help the bank generate excitement and adoption by sharing how the solution will positively affect them. By engaging in proactive and informative downstream communication, the high-level decision-makers can get the end users excited about the forthcoming implementation. If the end users have ample time to understand the solution, how it will help them, and when it goes live, they will be more receptive to using it—the end goal of implementation.

As Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” By working together and maintaining open, honest communication, banks and their strategic partners can implement winning combinations. As banks look for new vendors and begin implementing new solutions, making sure they are entering into the partnership knowing what to expect—and what’s expected of them—ensures a winning implementation process for all involved.

Anne Henderson is managing director of client strategy for Promontory MortgagePath, which ABA endorses for residential mortgage loan fulfillment.