Avoid the ‘beautiful silo’ approach to tech implementation

Succumbing to 'Shiny New Object Syndrome' can be a big mistake when purchasing and implementing tech solutions, one panelist at the CFOs & COOs Forum said on Thursday.

Don’t end up with a “beautiful silo” when it comes to your data. That was the advice from one panelist during the second day of Private Equity International’s CFOs & COOs Forum.

Panelists discussed how to ensure that your implementation of technological solutions to operations, including reporting and data management, doesn’t become unwieldy and burdensome because of a lack of planning.

The panelist who bemoaned his firm’s “beautiful silo” was referring to an unidentified system selected by the firm’s founder to deal with a firm-wide issue. The system was chosen because it solved the founder’s problem particularly well, the panelist said. “It requires our team to communicate with managers one way versus the investors another way,” said the panelist, and the names of investments differ within the system, compared to other systems throughout the firm. “There’s all kinds of elements of complication” that it introduces, he continued, saying that the firm has been trying to address the resulting problems for two years.

The system itself works very well, he said, hence the beauty of the silo of data it creates. But “it’s a good example of where things can go wrong when you don’t have a collaborative approach across the business” when it comes to data implementation.

But how to avoid “Shiny New Object Syndrome” and attain such a collaborative approach? Having “data strategists” who can assess all the data needs of the firm and implement a solution is one option, the person suggested. But if “you’ve got a really smart person who just goes out and picks a system by themselves…it can go quite wrong.”

“Having a good partner in a managed service provider or cyber firm is key,” too, he said. “Most of us [CFOs and COOs] don’t have a strong tech background.”

A second panelist appeared to agree with having in-house tech implementation personnel, saying that “the best thing I did was I hired people to actually help implement the tech, because they have a full-time job, and we needed help.”

That panelist suggested that it is of utmost importance to take tech implementation slowly. “I think the one lesson that I’ve learned – and I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life – in terms of implementation is that it’s better to go slow [in order] to go fast.” That means taking the time out to be thoughtful about what you need and building it out slowly to create the greatest utility and efficiency.

Avoiding that approach can not just result in data silos, but also a lack of adoption. Of course, as panelists agreed, tech implementation is meaningless without adoption.

“I would argue the earlier you can solve this the better, because if you silo all your information, the more successful you are, the worse your life will be,” said the first panelist. “And the more challenging it will be to move information from silo to silo.”