Organizations that invest in their digital capabilities are “future-ready” and achieve an average net margin of 19.3% above their industry mean according to industry research by MIT CISR and Alix Partners. Here’s how to select and implement enterprise software to support your company’s growth.
“People / process / tools” is a widely-used framework designed to help dissect the building blocks of your business – to better understand who does what, how they complete a given task, and what tools are used to complete it. While we believe the three pillars are equally important, we often see organizations prioritize people and process – and overlook (or delay) an investment in enterprise technology tools as their business scales. Without a cohesive corporate technology stack, high growth companies may find themselves working from an incomplete or inaccurate picture of their customer base or unable to make timely, data-driven decisions. At Summit, we support the selection and implementation of dozens of new business systems each year, on average, to provide foundational support for our portfolio companies’ growth ambitions. If you believe your technology is holding you back and you want to unlock new growth potential, the five principles below offer a framework for selecting and implementing enterprise-grade technology.
1. Assess Your Organizational Readiness
Organizations often grow up around one key technology platform – a CRM or ERP platform, e-commerce site, or even a proprietary system – which serves as the system of record for most vital business information. But, as processes evolve and become more sophisticated, teams across an organization begin to develop off-line capabilities or adopt “shadow systems”, including spreadsheets or small point solutions, to address the perceived and/or real deficiencies of the existing tools. These additional solutions can add complexity – both operationally and technologically – and require manual intervention to unify data and operate efficiently across teams.
If this sounds familiar, you may be ready to address this complexity with an enterprise-grade solution. Upgrading your technology requires a significant investment of time, money and resources. Before embarking on this journey, we recommend considering the following key questions: Do you have people with the skillset or experience to lead a project of this magnitude? Are executives and end users alike open to the change, and do they see the value? How clean and accessible is your existing data? Answers to these questions will help you assess internal alignment and build a cross-functional team to lead the project, and ultimately support a more successful outcome.
2. Hire an IT Leader
Many growing organizations have not built a formal IT department. In many cases, the “IT team” is comprised of one person who administers the existing tools and may be augmented by a decentralized team of departmental leaders owning their respective stopgap solutions. Once you’re ready to invest in your enterprise technology stack, we recommend hiring a dedicated technology leader to centralize management of the organization’s technology and serve the emerging needs of your business. If your budget doesn’t allow for the incremental hire, consider a third-party partner. There are several firms that offer fractional technology leaders on an interim basis.
If your budget does allow for this important hire, we recommend considering both hard and soft skills as you evaluate candidates. Hard skills include prior, tangible experience leading large technology implementations. Inquire about the pain points their prior organization struggled with, how new technology helped, and how they measured ROI. When evaluating soft skills, look for a leader who can effectively translate technical requirements into something the average employee can understand and act against.
3. Document Your Requirements
Once your project team is assembled, start documenting the business requirements. The time you invest here will pay dividends and help you stay on plan throughout the project. Summit’s proprietary data shows that companies typically achieve an 80-90% success rate for on-time/on-budget implementation when they invest the necessary time into documenting their requirements vs. less than a 50% success rate when they don’t. An adequate requirements plan will include:
- A list of the capabilities this new tool enables and your key success criteria
- Visualization of your business processes using a workflow tool like Lucid Charts or Vizio
- A scoring matrix to enable a quantitative evaluation of vendors and implementation partners
Well-authored requirements will mitigate scope creep and aid in change management. They will accelerate your time to value by streamlining the vendor selection process and will help reinforce internal alignment to the project’s goals.
4. Select Your Vendors
With your project team and product requirements in place, you’re ready to demo solutions and evaluate teams to help implement them. We encourage companies to provide their requirements, sample business data, and access to key team members to maximize the value of this step. This information will allow vendors to produce demonstrations tailored to your needs, which will in turn help you select the appropriate system. Utilize these best practices to make the most of this phase:
- Ask vendors to create proof-of-concept builds with actual business data to see your process come to life
- Learn how each vendor can unlock value for you and don’t share who they are competing against
- Meet potential system integrators early in the process and have them learn about your business alongside their recommended vendor
After selecting a vendor, move through contracting as efficiently as possible. Ask for legal documents as soon as you can and get ahead of pricing discussions by doing your research to understand the market price for this product and similar tools.
5. Manage Your Implementation
This phase is all about execution. You’ve hired an IT leader to spearhead the initiative. This person should provide regular (weekly) updates to your management team. They should report on project progress and any blockers / critical decision points. Successful implementations also incorporate end user feedback from testing to ensure the product meets everyone’s needs and to promote broad adoption after going live. Depending on the size of the end user population, we recommend designating power users with a train-the-trainer approach to act as first-line support and evangelists for the new tool. Once the technology is live, be sure to listen to your end users and think about incorporating their feedback into future releases.
Investing in enterprise technology tools can help increase your organization’s sophistication and serve as a foundation for future growth – but each technology project presents unique opportunities and challenges. The five steps described here are based on our experience across dozens of companies and, we believe, can serve to de-risk both the selection and implementation of enterprise technology tools.
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The content herein reflects the views of Summit Partners and is intended for executives and operators considering partnering with Summit Partners. For a complete list of Summit investments, please click here.
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