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“We Spent All This Money on Software, Why Aren’t People Using It?”

Mary Ellen Biery
September 5, 2019
Read Time: 0 min

When a community financial institution spends a lot of money on technology, the last thing management wants is to be disappointed. It’s actually the last thing the technology provider wants as well – if the vendor plans to stay in business.

The good news is that financial institutions can take several steps to ensure they avoid troublesome software integrations, says Steven Martin of Marcato Advisors, a bank consulting firm focused on achieving success with fintech. 

Martin will describe those steps later this month during the ThinkBIG Conference, but in a recent interview, he said the key is to take the business case for the tech investment very seriously. “It’s writing down specific goals, such as ‘We want to increase cross-sales while taking costs out,’ and then using the business case throughout to see if you’re achieving what you set out to do,” he said.

Financial institutions aren’t always good at creating and sticking to a business case for their technology investments, noted Martin, a management consultant who specializes in digital transformations with banks. They might develop pages and pages of carefully constructed analysis for a $1 million business loan, but for a technology investment? “Some will write a business case on the back of an envelope,” he said.

Martin’s presentation, “Return on Tech Investment – Measuring and Achieving Value from Fintech,” will also include advice on how banks or credit unions can regroup if they find themselves experiencing what they believe is disappointing software or a purchase that’s not providing what was expected out of the investment.

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“People are looking for a silver bullet,” Martin said. And while some vendors might oversell the “silver bullet” notion of software, sometimes, the challenges are on the financial institution side. “Sometimes, a financial institution will buy the solution over a first meeting … but they don’t have a business case and then they expect the software to be magical. You’ve really got be deliberate about what you’re doing.”

What to do with a project gone askew

Frustrated software users can get support from vendor user groupsAmong his tips for coping with a project that seems to be going off course? Look first to user adoption. “Get a sense of what’s going on – what are the failure points? I’d probably look toward what are those reasons that my staff or my customers aren’t using the software, and I’d prioritize those,” said Martin

A common reason for poor user adoption of software is a lack of understanding of the technology's capabilities. That can stem from a lack of training, either because the financial institution didn’t roll out enough or effective training to employees or perhaps didn’t tap into available resources, such as those of the vendor. “There are training videos, user groups – there’s a community out there for best practices,” Martin said. “The vendor has a stake in you being successful. How are we tapping into this great resource that is a vendor?”

Sometimes, financial institutions don’t adjust incentives to encourage adoption, resulting in poor user adoption of software. “It’s the old Salesforce adoption technique,” Martin said, “Where if the details aren’t [logged] in, there’s no commission [earned] on the sale.”

Poor user adoption of software can also occur when a financial institution doesn’t fully test the software in operation before rolling it out. “This category sounds really mundane, but I see it so often,” Martin said. When an institution makes changes to the workflow that require bankers to re-do work if those changes cause repeated problems because they weren’t initially tested, frustrations quickly mount and the desire to adapt to changes goes down quickly.

Once the financial institution has identified the reasons for lackluster software adoption, it’s easier to address the issues, getting the implementation back on track, Martin said.

Scarce resources require planning

Martin said software projects don’t usually slip off the rails at large banks because they typically have software implementation teams, but at community financial institutions, the staff is small enough that it’s typically a top officer in charge of overseeing a new software integration.

“Community banks are often resource-starved,” he said. “In most cases, there aren’t project teams or project officers to deploy for software integrations. It sometimes rests with the chief credit officer or the president, and they’re running a bank or they’re busy already. And they may not have the experience of running a project like this and getting it right.”

“The truth of the matter is that for many institutions, they stop thinking and working on it once they buy the software, for the most part,” Martin said. “You’re all pumped up after buying the software, but you don’t really budget in all of this extra hard work to make sure people get ready for launch.”

The scarce resources make it even more important to plan ahead and include additional people from the financial institution. “What I want to share is that you can get around these issues,” Martin said. By developing a business case, sticking to it, and making sure your users are ready by launch day, “You’re going to get your money’s worth.”

About the Author

Mary Ellen Biery

Senior Strategist & Content Manager
Mary Ellen Biery is Senior Strategist & Content Manager at Abrigo, where she works with advisors and other experts to develop whitepapers, original research, and other resources that help financial institutions drive growth and manage risk. A former equities reporter for Dow Jones Newswires whose work has been published in

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Abrigo enables U.S. financial institutions to support their communities through technology that fights financial crime, grows loans and deposits, and optimizes risk. Abrigo's platform centralizes the institution's data, creates a digital user experience, ensures compliance, and delivers efficiency for scale and profitable growth.

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