Updating your technology platform gives your firm new capabilities that can improve your bottom line and the client experience.
Newer systems provide powerful, sophisticated tools for acquiring new customers, investing assets effectively, managing trust and investment portfolios effectively, and flexibly reporting results to customers. However, we all know that conversions can be complex and nerve-wracking for even the most prepared team.
At Innovest, we typically convert a client onto our wealth management platform every month. With a conversion every month, we have managed to learn some tips and best practices for making the process as pain free as possible. Here are seven ways that you can make your conversion seamless and pain-free for you, your employees and your clients.
- Consider your customers first
A really well-executed conversion will be more or less invisible to your customers – everything about their experience with your firm should either remain the same or improve with as little needed from them as possible. Achieving that kind of effortless continuity, however, takes a lot of advanced planning.
Start by tallying all the ways that your implementation may affect clients, from the statements that they receive to the tax reporting they rely on to the online access to their accounts. Work with your transition team to build these elements into the front end of the conversion, so that you can continue to serve clients without a hitch.
One way we’ve helped our clients with this is by keeping the same account numbers as the ones that were used on the legacy platform. That makes the transition easier for both the customer and for the staff who serve them.
- Keep your staff informed
A transition process can take several months from start to finish, and your staff will be interacting with clients the whole time. Make sure they know what to say and how to do their jobs effectively at every stage of the process – with timely newsletters, videos and meetings that keep them up to date and involved in the process.
- Partner with your vendor
Your vendor will take care of most of the nitty gritty details of your conversion for you, but the process will work better if you remain involved. You can start by designating a team at your firm to oversee your conversion. Typically the owner, CFO or controller will take the lead on the project, supported by other key team members including project managers, sales managers and IT specialists. Your operations team should also be involved since they will be using the system on a day to day basis. You should also have a lead contact at the vendor’s company.
Once your team in in place, ask for a timetable of what steps will be completed and when, and then set regular check-in meetings to make sure you are still on track. If you have concerns about the process, raise them earlier. It’s much easier to tweak system capabilities during the set-up process, rather than later when your employees and clients are relying on the software.
- Re-think previous processes
Use your conversion as an opportunity to assess why you’ve always done things the way you have – and whether there may be better ways to accomplish tasks. You may wish to ask your staff and even customers for feedback on the systems you use – what they like, what they dislike, what seems unnecessarily cumbersome – and work with your vendor to find improvements.
- Consider data history carefully
For many firms, importing historical data is a critical step. Done well, it will allow your staff to serve clients seamlessly, accessing both old data and new via a single platform. Some software vendors will ask you to key in data manually; others will have automatic conversion capabilities.
Electronic data conversion is obviously much faster than manual conversion, importing master files, job cost history, customer information, vendor details and open invoices in a very short period of time. However, you will still have to check the data for accuracy. It’s smart to clean up old data before you convert it, using standard formatting for entries, identifying duplicate or missing records, and purging unnecessary data.
Once it’s imported, you’ll have to test your data’s integrity through a dry run of the new system’s capabilities. Here you’ll run queries and create reports and compare them to results from the legacy system. If there’s a discrepancy, your vendor can help you address problems before you go live.
The garbage in/garbage out rule is important here – any errors on the prior system will need to be considered as part of determining how much data to convert.
- Robust training and on-site help at conversion
Even the most effective system won’t work properly if your staff don’t know how to use it. Training can ensure that your employees feel comfortable with the new platform before they start using it to serve customers.
Build in at least a day of training in which staff can practice all tasks that they’ll be doing on the new system — including account opening, portfolio management, performance reporting and tax reporting. Once they understand the basics, you can move on to more advanced system capabilities.
Make sure that your employees know how to reach the vendor after the training session by phone or email. Encourage them to ask for help when they have questions or encounter problems with the new platform.
Your staff should understand that they are responsible for learning how to do their jobs on the new system. It is up to them to ask questions and request assistance if they encounter challenges.
- Be realistic
Even the smoothest conversion will have a few bumps along the way. Talk with your provider about where they have experienced difficulties in the past when converting systems like yours. If you can, build extra time around potential trouble spots. To avoid bottlenecks, make sure you’re not performing the conversion during your busiest periods, such as tax filing season or year-end reporting.
By following these steps, you can minimize disruption and accelerate your firm’s ability to take advantage of new platform capabilities. Innovest has been assisting financial services firms in the conversion process for nearly 20 years, with a team of seasoned experts and access to cutting edge technology. For more information about how our technology platform can help you grow your business, visit us on the web at www.innovestsystems.com.