CU Mag: How else can CUs ensure a smooth conversion process?
Tanner: Include as many leaders, decision makers, and influencers as possible in the vendor selection process. One of our clients brought in six people to look at our system. I applaud that because those people will shape not only the selection process but the training and implementation processes consistently all the way through.
These people have other jobs to do. Making them part of this early on not only gives them status in the organization, it makes them much more effective as leaders. And you get better decisions, too. We encourage that.
Once you’ve decided to purchase a system, the CEO has to strongly and visibly communicate that the conversion is important to him or her, to the credit union, to members, and to staff.
The worst thing that can happen is to have someone in the back of the room whining about having to change or do something extra. It drags people down, and puts the complainer in the position to do material damage to the training and conversion processes.
You also need a strong team. This is too big of a project to be delegated to someone with no authority.
Sometimes the CEO will be involved in the decision-making process and then hand it off to the No. 2 person. The danger is that the No. 2 person often is already overburdened, especially if the CEO is heavily involved in chapter or league affairs.
Make sure your expectations are realistic. Don’t expect that the day after the conversion the organization will be transformed and butterflies will sail through the lobby. People will have memory lapses a couple of months after the conversion, or they’ll forget about a form that they now need right away.
If this happens, don’t get disappointed or feel you’ve made the wrong decision. You want to make sure your employees are happy with the decision and the system is solving their problems. It takes leadership to do that.
Have a single point of control. This can be one person or a team. Everyone in the credit union should be aware that this is the person they should go to. This person should have a broad awareness of what the credit union does and who does it so he or she can direct the vendor staff quickly to the right people to minimize wheel-spinning.
Recognize that a system conversion is an opportunity, not just a technology upgrade. Done right, it’s a business transformation project.
Have all key people, as they learn about the new system, evaluate the changes their areas will require. Having a department head involved at this level will allow this person to see changes that need to take place. Then they can help staff make the transition to the new procedure and software.
Our staff works closely with credit union department leaders. This isn’t unique, but it’s essential to support the leaders in the credit union who are facilitating the process.
Do simulation tests. In the old days, we used to run parallel processing. You can’t do this anymore; there are too many electronic transactions coming in.
We’ll select a weekday for which we save all of the batch files, transmissions, and everything else. We schedule a test on a Saturday where we post all of the transactions and batches from that weekday on the new system, and then verify that all of the numbers and accounts match. It’s a time-shifted parallel operation.
This way, staff get to work their way through the transactions on the new system without members standing in front of them. It’s a nice confidence builder—and a legitimate test.
Next: Conversion ‘don’ts'
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.