When it comes to technology, misconceptions abound in the mortgage industry. Last year we teamed up with HousingWire to survey mortgage lenders about mortgage software implementation; a whopping 57% of respondents reported that implementing technology in their organization went slower than expected.
Indeed, part of a successful software implementation is setting realistic expectations about your implementation timeline. But there are a number of things you can do — starting as early as during the shopping process — to ensure a seamless implementation process with widespread adoption.
1.) Identify and Articulate Your Main Priorities Early in the Vendor Selection Process
This isn’t a one-and-done transaction; your chosen software vendor is a key stakeholder in your software implementation plan.
Getting the most from your software vendor actually starts during the shopping and selection process. A big part of finding a great vendor fit is understanding and articulating your unique business needs. A best-in-class software vendor will be agile and able to accommodate your organizational nuances in your implementation plan, but to get there, you have to know what to ask for.
Because the buying group is not always comprised of end users, be sure to involve a few front-line employees early in the process that can be your sounding board. Their concerns about new technology will likely vary from those making the purchase decisions, and consulting with future end users early on will ensure the goals of management, your future users, and the software vendor are aligned. We often ask our clients to use their top producers for soft launches to gather the most useful feedback pre-widespread launch.
“Make a list of every person, team and department that will use the new tool. This includes day-to-day users, as well as leaders who consume data the tool will produce. Be sure to not only address who your stakeholders are, but how they will be impacted and the timing of the impact.” — Eileen O’Loughlin, Senior Content Analyst, SoftwareAdvice (a Gartner company)
One way to ensure you’re covering all your bases is to create a document that covers all of the critical questions you need answered from your software vendor. Ideally, you would have these questions at the ready in your early software demos.
Be sure to consider any legal or compliance-related concerns you might have and involve necessary team members (legal, IT, etc.) for a thorough approach. It’s also helpful to have a relatively accurate estimate of the total number of potential users you plan to onboard with your new software, which will help your vendor develop more accurate pricing, as well as implementation timelines and planning.
This doc with your core priorities and concerns should be consulted into the implementation phase, where you can use it to ensure employees are adequately trained on the features of the software that best alleviate their pain points.
2.) Approach Software Shopping with a Healthy Dose of Skepticism
Approach software shopping with a healthy dose of skepticism. Some software vendors tout features on their website that are still in development and aren’t live on their platform. Ask lots of questions about features you’re interested in, especially if the feature in question is a must-have for your team. Be direct and ask questions about feature roll-out timelines and availability to ensure you don’t sign a contract only to find out the features you were most excited about won’t be live and usable for another year.
Likewise, be mindful that just because a software feature exists doesn’t necessarily mean it functions well. Intuitive design and user experience are crucial to functionality; if you’ve ever used a clumsily designed or poorly maintained app on your smartphone, you understand what I mean here.
3.) Do Your Own Research
In the same vein, do your due diligence and independently confirm what a vendor tells you before you take it at face value. Read software reviews on Capterra, G2 Crowd, and SoftwareAdvice (and Android/Apple App Store reviews if you’re vetting a vendor with a mobile app) to get a first-hand look at how actual customers who use the application feel about it. Read GlassDoor reviews to get a feel for how the company functions internally, as internal turmoil can often have negative impacts on the functionality and stability of the software down the road.
Ask your vendor for case studies and customer referrals. Talk to their existing customers about features you’re interested in to see how they function in practice. Hit Google hard, ask lots of questions, don’t believe everything you hear, and you’ll be on the road to finding a software partner that will elevate your organizational capability and value.
4.) Assemble Your Internal Implementation Team
The next step is to put together a team to manage your implementation internally. Assembling a dedicated implementation team, with a member from each business unit involved, can immensely help the implementation process run smoothly from start to finish. Some of our clients prefer rolling out Maxwell’s software to this smaller team of internal champions first to gather their feedback and work with our Customer Success team to make adjustments to their implementation plan before Maxwell is rolled out to the entire organization.
By having multiple champions internally that are already familiar with the software upon large-scale deployment, new users have a built-in support system and often feel more comfortable asking their colleagues for guidance rather than having to reach out to the software vendor’s support team as they become acclimated with the new technology.
“[The implementation team] should include an IT lead to handle needs and concerns surrounding configuration and integration with other systems, along with a small sample of end users (e.g., employees, customers, etc.) for testing and feedback.” — Brian Westfall, Senior Content Analyst, SoftwareAdvice
If you already have a manager in place who trains employees during onboarding or when new initiatives are launched, be sure to include them in the launch process, as they will need to extremely comfortable using and training on your new software.
5.) Start Thinking About Your Adoption Strategy Early On
Implementing new software is one thing, but getting your employees to adopt a new software is an entirely different beast. As you move through the software vendor selection process, be mindful about how you’d like to handle driving adoption in your organization.
In any industry, driving software adoption can be difficult. But in the mortgage industry, where new technology is often met with staunch skepticism, adoption can be even more difficult.
A successful software deployment requires upper management to decide on an adoption strategy early on and see it through to fruition. In most cases, the most reliable strategy to foster adoption and quickly see positive ROI is to make adoption mandatory. Our Customer Success team has seen time and time again that the customers who mandate adoption throughout the organization are the ones who see positive ROI quickly and feel more satisfied (both at the management level and at the loan officer level) with their investment.
6.) Drive Implementation & Adoption from the Top Down
Software implementation can seem daunting because it, by nature, demands your team to alter your business processes. The best mortgage software is built with intuitive, behavior-driven design that minimizes process impact, but the best software in the world still requires your team to make small changes to incorporate it into how they work.
Successful implementation isn’t just about training on the software, but also about teaching employees how to integrate it into their existing day-to-day processes.
To successfully adapt to new technology, implementation efforts must be a priority at the top of your organization and cascade down. Upper management has to lead the charge and make a commitment for the entire organization, demonstrating a firm willingness to invest the proper time and resources into training.
7.) Clearly Define Your Success Metrics
Before implementation begins, you will want to set quantitative metrics that you want the new software to achieve. What does a successful outcome look like? It might be a higher number of closed loans, higher customer satisfaction metrics, quicker time to close, etc. Different teams have different priorities, but it’s important to clarify those priorities and understand your baseline performance metrics pre-implementation so you can accurately track the success of your new software once it’s fully rolled out.
With your desired outcome established, then strategize what your company needs to do to achieve those goals. Is it a percentage of all employees logging into the software daily? A 100% usage rate within three months? Will you need to tie your Google Analytics data into the new software so you can monitor website visits vs. clicks on loan application links?
If your software doesn’t offer you reporting metrics, always reach out to your customer success or account manager as they are often able to access internal reporting and send you data.
Software implementation and adoption can seem intimidating, but with realistic expectations and a proactive approach to your implementation strategy, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. Our survey data with HousingWire shows that 43% of companies with two to 20 employees were able to deploy new software in just one to three months.
Don’t wait until you’re signing a contract to think about implementation and adoption. Start developing your strategy and incorporate it into your software shopping and you’ll be better poised to reduce friction and streamline implementation for a seamless process once you’re ready to roll out your new tech.