In industries across the United States and around the globe, Q4 is well underway and the New Year is in sight. While many are busy planning for 2019, credit unions might need to widen their scope. If you are considering an upgrade to a new core platform, planning is key. Core conversions can be time consuming and stressful for any financial institution if not well thought out and prepared for. To ease the burden on your credit union, start planning more than a year in advance. That may sound like overkill but there are several reasons why this extended planning period will benefit your credit union in the end. Here is a timeline and items to consider if you are pondering a core conversion.
Step 1: Review Your Current System
It might take a small army to wrangle all the information needed to move forward with a core conversion. This means establishing a core conversion team who will oversee the process through the entire duration of the conversion. It all begins with an initial review of the current core. The begging of Q1 is a great time to do so, as your credit union likely completed a year-end recap and the topic will be fresh in everyone’s mind. Identifying pain points as well as positive attributes within the system will help create a comprehensive list of qualifications for the new core.
Step 2: Research and Assess Vendors
The wish list and deal breakers from the initial review stage will help the core conversion team sift through potential vendors. When assessing vendors, it’s important not to overextend your search. Your credits union’s budget, needs, and first impressions should help to narrow the options and lead to a more focused and efficient search. In absence of a debilitating pool of choices, the conversion team will be able to dive deeper and research the front-running systems. At the end of this research stage, your credit union will have a profile of info on each suggested core system, that will serve as the guide to selecting the top choice.
Step 3: Demo Front Running Options
For the top 2-3 options, move forward with a demo. More than three demos will lead to confusion and uncertainty. It would become a guessing game of sorts - the conversion team would likely struggle to remember which feature was associated with which system. After conducting these demos and a discussion among the research team, it should become apparent which system is the ultimate front-runner. It is also crucial to contact other credit unions in your network and ask them for a rundown on their core system. For those using the top contenders, document their responses and include them in the portfolio of materials for each system. At this point, the research team can make their recommendations and the final decision and negotiation with vendors begin.
Step 4: Managing Anxieties and Expectations
After closing the deal with the new vendor, the actual conversion planning can commence. This is arguably the most stressful part because it starts to affect the credit union's entire staff, compared to the initial stages that are confined to the research team and management. During the conversion, leadership will be essential in providing a seamless experience, however, training and preparing staff to use the new system is equally important. Core conversions are much less scary to employees that have seen and used the new system before the launch. Throwing staff into the deep end on day one will lead to panic and members will sense the chaos and confusion. To avoid this, hold several training sessions so the staff has sufficient opportunities to play around with the new core and learn its functionalities. Doing so will ease the doubts and anxieties of staff and provide a seamless member experience as well.
After considering all the steps and moving parts in a core conversion, it’s easy to see how this process might take more than a year to plan and complete. A great way to tackle core conversion is breaking the process down into the 4 steps outlined above. This way there is a set of responsibilities to complete within each step, which provides deadlines throughout the year to help the process stay on track. It also narrows the focus during each stage of conversion so the process doesn’t become too overwhelming for the core conversion team. Without a timeline and a set of tasks, a data processing conversion can be derailed and delayed quite easily. Don’t let the calendar fool you, a year goes by quickly and you’ll need it to successfully launch a new core by the start of 2020.