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August 8, 2016 by Alison Van Pelt Alison Van Pelt

Four Conversion Must-Do’s in a Bottle

I recently attended a bank’s first conversion data validation event and was so impressed by it that I kept asking myself, “What if I could bottle this somehow?” So like any project manager worth her salt, I’m doing just that. So, here’s my four conversion must-do’s bottled for your sipping pleasure.

1. Go Team: The conversion team should be structured properly and early. One of the many fun things I learned as a bank CIO leading a core conversion was that adding cross-functional resources that are key stakeholders enhances buy-in. Including team members from departments that cross all bank areas like accounting and IT will go a long way toward the success of the project.

2. Room (except for Chatty Cathy): The validation room is a key factor in the success of the full conversion. Workstations with dual monitors are preferable. Connectivity to both the donor platform(s) and the new platform makes for easier data validation. The people in the seats should have an aptitude for detail and fact-finding. They must be fully trained and comfortable on the new system. They also need to understand the majority of the business decisions that have been made during the set-up of the new system. Word of warning: a Chatty Cathy is likely to disrupt the project.

3. Focus: Clearly defined roles and responsibilities will help people stay focused on the tasks at hand. Resources must be dedicated not only to the event but to their role in the event. As an example:

  • IT handles technical tasks and provides end-user support.
  • Accounting focuses on balancing activities.
  • Validators focus on data review and report issues to team leaders.
  • Team leaders review issues and report to the vendor.

4. Watch it! Manage the data effectively. Data validation is a tedious task for anyone, and management often starts asking questions like, “% Complete?” and “How many issues reported?” There are several data points to be considered for management:

  • The source or donor data. Some banks build tools to populate vendor-provided workbooks to eliminate some of the entry by validators. This is great, but it also needs to be validated that the workbooks are populated correctly.
  • Issue reporting is important but not all issues are issues. Say what?? Data validators will report items that need to be vetted by a team leader. Decisions along that way have been made to change how business is conducted or how the data is converted. Multiple issues may be logged that will have the same root cause. Team leaders need to vet the issues and only report the true issues. An internal reporting tool will help information flow quickly to team leaders.
  • Team leaders need to log and pass true issues quickly to the vendor for resolution. As a banker, a vendor, and now a consultant leading these projects, I’ve learned that vendors will often provide dedicated resources, but only for the duration of the conversion. It’s a race against time. The quicker issues are escalated, the quicker the vendor can respond.

Whether it’s for core, online banking, lending or payments system conversions, GonzoBankers out there are finding successful conversions are as much about project LEADERSHIP as they are about project MANAGEMENT. We hope these four bottled-up must-do’s help you in leading your next conversion. And, hey–it’s good to have that bottle for toasting the team when the successful conversion is through. Sounds like fun, huh? Well happy un-bottling, decanting and tasting.

To your health!

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