Software Installation Evaluations – Why, How, Who and When

by Lucido Group

CTRM customers often choose a system, execute the implementation plan to go live with just the most important requirements. It is entirely understandable – getting live with the bare minimum can still be a tall order in and of itself. Some may ask why revisit the implementation? How should we do that? When should it be done, or how long after go-live should we do this, and how often?

The Why

Revisiting what was implemented gives the users and project team a chance for many improvements such as

  1. Gains in user efficiency
  2. Increased use of system functions
  3. A chance to revisit some decisions that were made during the implementation
  4. Improved system performance
  5. Improved user experience

Gains in user efficiency can be achieved by reviewing how the user works in the system, to evaluate if they are using it in the most efficient manner. It may be that the user does not know everything they need to know about the system to be as efficient as possible, so training may help.  Further, some more flexible systems may be open enough for a technical resource to create a simple customization to gain hours of efficiencies each week for the users. Most are surprised to find how much more they can get out of the system and there are few clients who complain that they are burdened with excess time.

It only required about 4 hours of configuration work up front, and that work saved the Accounting team approximately 20 hours a month

By reviewing the installation, the team can also begin to look at other functions in the system that were not configured, turned on, or were not part of user training. In one example, users of a CTRM system thought they had to create invoices one by one even after they had verified the data in a settlement check-out window. In that system there was a function to create invoices in batch, and also create invoice PDF forms in batch. It only required about 4 hours of configuration work up front, and that work saved the Accounting team approximately 20 hours a month. In another customer install, the customer was unaware of a risk exposure capability in the system, so users were exporting valuation and price data to spreadsheets, as well as trade data, to create a daily basis exposure report. This took a couple of hours every day. Once the users were taught how to configure the basis exposure report in the system, the report took less than 5 minutes to run the valuations and retrieve the report. 

During the implementation, decisions are made either by the team to streamline the project, or by users who are just beginning to learn the system, and in some cases have had no training. Once the users have had a chance to work in the system for a period of time, if the system is flexible enough, users can revisit those decisions and change them. An example is the concept that many systems have to label trade types and book structures. A customer picked book structure based on location or area. However, risk reports and valuations already wrote the location and market area to the detailed table, and allowed users to report on those elements. Thus, the users wanted to change the book structure to reflect their true strategy. 

The use of a technical expert can often greatly improve performance of the system in many areas, as discussed in the ‘How’ section below. 

Improvements in performance can also improve the user experience.  Further, solving issues and pain points also improves the customer experience.  Listening to the users and allowing them to be part of the solution will also get them to buy-in to the system more as well. 

The How

To conduct a productive Installation Evaluation, or IE, experts are needed on the system side, as well as the business side.  Then there should be at least three phases of an IE: 

  1. Analysis of issues, pain points, and ‘nice-to-haves’;
  2. Review of how the customer uses the system in each area of the software;
  3. Review of the technical side of the implementation, including server configurations.

The final deliverable of an IE is a report containing documentation around all findings, with a clear set of recommendations and a plan for each finding. The client should anticipate these being opportunities to save time and money – working with an unbiased third party that takes a consultative sales approach is critical to ensure your project achieves that goal.

Analyzing issues, pain points, and ‘nice-to-haves’ is a key part of the IE. It is important to review the current issues, as they can often tell a bigger story. It is also important to give the users a voice in the process, to vent and to be a part of the solution. Further, functional and/or technical experts can often come up with solutions that the vendor support may not know. There was a recent IE where a customer presented 27 open issues on the first day, and 25 of those issues were closed or solved the same day. This is a more frequent occurrence than one might think! There may be also be configuration changes, work-arounds or simple technical solutions to help users overcome issues that are headaches that they had simply assumed was the way things worked. The “Nice-to-Have” category can be items that can quickly solved by a configuration change, or by training. If a solution for any of these cannot be solved, the items should all be prioritized, documented, and sent to the vendor to submit for either an issue, or a modification request. And even in that process, having a seasoned expert in your system is important to help streamline that bug fix process.

a minor expenditure of time that will show significant returns and improvement in the day-to-day operational life of the user

It is also important to review how the customer uses the system in each area of the software, including contracts, confirms, trading and trade support, scheduling and logistics, risk reporting and credit, accounting and settlement. This may also be a simple training item – a minor expenditure of time that will show significant returns and improvement in the day-to-day operational life of the user. These may be small things, but all together they contribute to creating much happier users. 

A review of the technical side of the implementation is also key. A technical expert can evaluate how the system is set up on the servers, review all processing configurations, as well as look at database server configurations. Performance is frequently a pain point, and things like database indexing and archival strategies can be an effective point of mitigation. Some customers may have an on-premise installation but are considering moving to the cloud. These are topics a technical expert can discuss and help with. Further, technical experts can review other areas such as system administration functions, extensions, security, integrations to other systems, and custom reporting using platforms such as Crystal Reports or Microsoft Reporting Services.  

Throughout the process, every item, issue, and finding needs to be documented. The IE team will need to make sure all the details are clearly defined, so that others, such as a services team, may pick up the documents and finish the process. The documents should have a recommended plan going forward for each item. Further, each item should be prioritized with the customer, so that the customer can then decide which items to move forward, and which items can wait. 

The Who

To conduct a productive Installation Evaluation, or IE, experts are needed on the system side, the technical side, as well as the business side. These experts can come from an external consultancy or from the vendor. Many of the most experienced and knowledgeable consultants for this type of work come from consulting firms who are in the industry and have worked on vendor projects for years, and can offer an unbiased opinion and expertise on the system and how best to move forward. Many of these consultants even worked for the vendor at some point. The business experts would come from the customer themselves, and the customer should expect that the system experts should be very knowledgeable about the business as well. 

The When

The IE should wait at least 6 months to a year, and should be done every one to two years. Doing an IE immediately after go-live is not really recommended, since the users have barely gotten into the system. The IE should also take into account whether it is a busy season for the customer, and should not be done during the accounting close period. An IE should last two to three days but can go to a week for larger customers.