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Timing is crucial for tech upgrades

Technology upgrades can be simplified, but the entire team must be on board for it to be successful.

Timing, a positive culture and employing easy-to-use systems are the keys to the successful deployment of technology at private equity firms, according to experts.

Speaking at Private Equity International’s Investor Relations Forum in New York last week, a panel of technology experts said while upgrading systems may seem like a huge task, the benefits of doing so do make it worthwhile.

A number of first-time managers are prioritising technology from the beginning, to ensure efficiency and as a selling point to investors.

“Getting it right at the outset saves a lot of time further down the line and enables the firm to create a technology culture, where everyone is on board with using the system and clearly understands its benefits,” one service provider said.

Established firms may be daunted by the prospect of updating their technology systems, but there are products available that can make the transition smoother and more efficient, the founder of a second technology firm said.

“About three years ago we decided to review our approach and began working on a solution that brings together data that may be sitting on different systems and within different programs. Bringing technology up to date doesn’t have to be a five-year task,” the speaker said.

He added in his experience, the most successful technology transitions are made against a backdrop of firm-wide support.

“It’s important that you choose the right time, and the right project, to implement the change,” the chief technology officer of a large private equity firm agreed. “And if the senior management are not on board, it’s unlikely to get far.”

When choosing a solution, the speakers said firms should consider ease of use, including making sure staff can access the system from any device, anywhere.

“Simple things, such as making sure email is optimized for the iPad or a mobile phone, that it has functionality away from the office, and that its operation is logical are all very important,” the CTO said.

He added that if a firm does not have a dedicated technology team, it is wise to employ someone –internally or externally – before undertaking a technology upgrade.

“You might have an IT helpdesk, someone who helps with your computer issues, but that person is not trained in security, they can’t implement a cybersecurity policy for example, they’re not trained to take on a system upgrade,” he said.

An office expansion, or establishing a second or third operation, may also prompt a firm to hire a dedicated technology specialist.

“If you’ve one office and a small staff you probably don’t need a dedicated CTO, but as soon as you start to grow, or expand into other geographies, things become more complicated, he added”

Around half of conference delegates said that they have at least some input in the purchase of new technology at the firm, with 18 percent saying they took full responsibility for it.