CU Mag: What are some conversion ‘don’ts?’
Tanner: Don’t expect terminology to be consistent between the old and new system: Symitar calls something one thing, Fiserv calls it another, and we have our own name. You can’t ignore the semantic differences—don’t expect process terminology to be consistent.
We supply documentation early on so people can become familiar with our terminology. Of course, we know that only one in 10 people will read the documentation. We try to make sure during the training process that credit union employees make the transition from the old semantics to the new.
And never expect procedures to be the same with the new system as they were with the old system. Getting this across to people is challenging. We do that with training.
Similarly, many people learn their jobs so well, almost by rote, that getting out of that mode and into a new one is difficult for them. So we try to make sure from the first meeting that the credit union emphasizes that every procedure is up for review. Not all procedures will be rewritten, but many times they’ll change.
We wrote our system so that credit union processes that took multiple steps in legacy systems were reduced to one step. And posting batches on our system is handled through one screen for the whole process.
We want people to take advantage of streamlining and improved efficiencies. Why buy a new system if you’re going to run it just like you did the old one?
CU Mag: What are some common stumbling blocks?
Tanner: The biggest one is time. This process takes six months, but it’s not unusual to get a request for a four or five-month timeframe. Even if we get six months, everyone at the credit union has a full-time job to do, and you’re asking them to do additional things on top of that.
Often, management hasn’t made sure there are no vacations scheduled during the conversion. An employee might have planned a vacation two years earlier and the CEO has to deal with that. Usually they can work something out. But I’ve seen cases when four or five key people weren’t there during key parts of the process.
There also are times when the credit union has other major projects going on at the same time. During a recent conversion, the credit union was renovating the entire building—part of the building was studs; part was finished. That’s a distraction.
We had one in California where the credit union was remodeling and the training room wasn’t available because it was on the second floor and there weren’t any stairs. When they finally put the stairs in, we installed the computer equipment.
The credit union had to do some drywall work—and it got enough drywall powder into the computer room that it destroyed one of the servers. Coordination has to happen because, at the very least, this is a distraction. At the worst, you can lose some equipment.
Next: A good conversion experience
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.