Article by Joan Walker, Managing Director at UNAPEN, Inc.
See Part 1 here: What Can RIAs Expect from a System Conversion – Part 1
When we last left off, we had determined that signing a contract is the beginning of the process, not the end. We also learned our first lesson – your firm needs to have knowledgeable and empowered people as part of the conversion project team, but what does this mean? Many times a project team ends up looking like this:
Characteristics of a Winning Project Team
Instead, the persons appointed should:
- Be able stop the process until a question is properly answered
- Be able get answers within your organization in a timely fashion (within a day)
- Know which pieces of data are critical and those that are not
- Keep the rest of the team up-to-date to ensure buy-in to the new system
- Make sure all the benefits of the new system are highlighted and taken advantage of
- Understand the pains within the old system, so those pains are not replicated in the new system
- Understand the benefits of the old system so those benefits are maintained within the new system.
Now Let’s Look at the Vendor’s Team
Now here is the second lesson: The second group of knowledgeable and empowered people must come from the vendor that you have chosen for the new system. Prior to signing on the dotted line, your firm should get an idea of how your new vendor does business:
- How many people will be assigned to your conversion?
- What are their roles?
- Who is the primary contact?
- How much experience do they have?
These are all questions to pose during the vetting process. The system may look great but if your firm doesn’t have a good conversion team, it may never function the way that your firm needs it to.
The “A” Team
Every firm wants the “A” team from their vendor. Every firm is told they are getting the “A” team from their vendor. Very rarely does any firm get the “A” team, because these days an “A” team does not exist. Think about it – does it make sense to confine the top people to one team? No, you spread the knowledge around. That allows many teams get a piece of the knowledge and allows all members of all teams to benefit. This makes good business sense. So, all of the criteria that you apply to your conversion team you should apply to the members of your vendor’s team, with the following additions:
- At least one member should know which pieces of data are critical and those that are not and that member should be your firm’s primary contact.
- At least one member should keep the both teams up to date on the progress of the conversion. Depending on the phase of the conversion, this should happen at least twice a month.
- At least one member should make sure all the benefits of the new system are highlighted and explained to your firm’s team. Then it is up to your team to determine how and when to take advantage of new benefits.
- All members should understand that they are working with your firm to ensure the best possible outcome.
How Firm and Vendor Teams Should Coordinate
There is a difference between your firm’s conversion team and the vendor’s conversion team. You MUST be their top priority throughout the project. That does not mean you will get 100% dedicated people. During a conversion project, there may be several functions involved from the vendor point of view: Project Management, Business Analysis, Technical Analysis, Data Analysis, Development and Quality Assurance. Not all of these functions will happen at the same time, so you really don’t want people on the clock who are not working. However, when the time comes to hand off part of the project from one team member to another, there should be a minimal delay. How will you know if there is a delay?
That question brings us to our third lesson. It is the universal priority of all relationships – What is it? Stayed tuned for Part 3!
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