How to champion digital transformation at your firm

June 6, 2023

If you embrace innovation and are looking for ways to help your firm become more efficient, you probably recognize the potential of artificial intelligence. You might also have realized that not all of your colleagues are as eager to embrace new technologies. If you’re looking to champion AI and technology in your firm, we’ve offered some pointers below to help you accelerate your firm’s digital transformation.

The Digital Transformation Imperative

Explore how your organization functions

Before recommending particular AI applications or other tech solutions, understand how your company operates outside of your role and department. It’s tempting to hyper-focus on your day-to-day tasks, but building cross-functional relationships and learning how departments interact is essential. If you’re an investment professional, talk to your legal, finance, and investor relations teams about what they do to ensure the firm runs smoothly.

By gaining a clearer picture of the entire organization, you’ll better understand the company’s tech stack as a whole and not only the select applications for your department. Learning which tech solutions your firm has already adopted (and when) will give you a better view of the organization’s technological evolution. The timeline of adoption can help you better understand the firm’s overall attitude toward technology and change. Maybe your firm is progressive compared to competitors, or perhaps it’s been relatively slow to adjust to the digital transformation.

Uncover your organization’s pain points

Not all firms in the private markets share the same challenges. Some struggle with routine NDAs slowing down due diligence and deal opportunities. Others lack visibility into their fund documents, causing concern over contract compliance. Learn your organization’s specific issues to see where tech solutions might help.

If your firm has an innovation team, connect with it and get up to speed on what they’ve already done or learned. You may be able to partner with the team, drive cross-functional communication, and lead AI research and adoption efforts in your department.

Use your limited downtime wisely

Depending on the pace of deal activity, the intensity of your day-to-day work may ebb and flow. Use some of your quieter time to research and demo tech solutions. By continuously learning about and evaluating technologies appropriate for the private markets, you’ll gather crucial information before it becomes necessary. You’ll have a head start understanding what’s on the market and which applications might benefit your firm.

Even if AI hasn’t come up at your firm yet, it will. AI matters not only to your firm’s internal processes, but also to its broader investment or diligence strategy. No business can escape the AI conversation, and if you’ve done your homework, you can add meaningful information to that discussion.

Offer a credible point of view

It’s not enough to know that a product exists and offers potential benefits. To truly champion technology in your firm, you’ll need to offer a well-rounded, credible point of view. Research the risks, challenges, and limitations of any tech solutions you would like to consider. Be a partner to other functional teams within your organization and approach other stakeholders as a collaborator.

Be ready to discuss:

  • A tech product’s downsides
  • Whether the product’s benefits outweigh the risks
  • How your firm can address those risks

Understand change management

With every new tech adoption, there’s a chance your organization won’t see the expected return on investment. Unfortunately, failed tech adoptions aren’t rare. Many companies over- or underestimate the work of implementation and don’t clearly understand the factors that can lead to success or failure.

Several issues can stand in the way of a successful tech adoption, including:

  • The wrong product
  • Lack of training
  • Insufficient internal support
  • Implementation issues
  • Resistance to change

The last factor, resistance to change, is essential to consider. Individuals at your firm will have a wide range of opinions about tech and AI, from highly enthusiastic to deeply skeptical. As a champion, you’ll need to encourage buy-in from even the most doubtful colleagues.

Understand and consider your colleagues’ concerns. You want to bring them along on the digital transformation journey rather than push them to change too quickly. You’ll have more success influencing decision-making if you approach senior leadership and other functional teams with deference and a collaborative mindset.

It also helps to understand the time commitment required to implement new solutions and align that timing to your firm’s investing and fundraising cycle. Many tech solutions will have a greater impact if they are implemented ahead of specific firm activities. For example, it’s most beneficial to implement a digital subscription platform in the time leading up to launching a new fund.

Cultivate an ownership mindset

If you want to champion technology and digital transformation at your firm, prepare to volunteer and take a leadership role. Demonstrate leadership by taking the initiative to research available technology, consider risks and limitations, and gauge what it will take to implement a solution. Volunteer for an active role in finalizing a product decision and overseeing training and implementation.

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