CU Mag: Why do delays occur?
Casagrand: Sometimes with smaller credit unions it’s a lack of resources. But the biggest reason for delays is when the project manager fills a key role at both the credit union and the conversion process—everything has to flow through him or her.
That’s a big stumbling block because it creates a bottleneck.
Bilke: You set up the conversion as a series of tasks and events. If you start deferring those either because you’re not ready to make decisions or your key decision maker isn’t available, then everything starts sliding toward that immovable date. That’s when credit unions get in trouble.
During the five years I’ve been at Symitar, we’ve done about 130 conversions and only one credit union has asked to push back its conversion date. It’s rare.
CU Mag: How can CUs maintain staff’s motivation during the conversion process?
Casagrand: I encourage the CEO or chief information officer to bring in the stakeholders and the conversion team to get them excited from day one.
You need to keep up the conversion team’s morale, so we suggest the credit union create a theme for each conversion.
Bilke: The data part is pretty straightforward—we’ve been doing this a long time. But it’s challenging to get the credit union people on board and engaged and understanding why you’re changing the system and why that’s important to them.
Wrapping the conversion in a theme works wonders for getting everyone on board.
The most common theme, which matches with the nine-month conversion timeline, is having a baby. A lot of credit unions have sports themes, CSI, and Star Wars.
I like to call the credit union CEO a day or two after the system goes live and see how things are going. We want to have as few post-conversion issues as possible.
The CEOs often tell me it’s so quiet and calm that they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Next: Advice for CUs
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.