‘No Such Thing’ as an Easy Core Conversion

If you let things slide, you risk ‘having a wave come over your head.’

January 03, 2011
KEYWORDS conversion , core , cu
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What’s the recipe for a successful core processing conversion? Assemble the right team, minimize disruptions, build a comprehensive plan, stay on plan, and resist the temptation to delay or defer activities or decisions.

So say Symitar President Ted Bilke and Charlotte Casagrand, director of implementations. The core processing veterans share with Credit Union Magazine their knowledge about ensuring a smooth core conversion.

CU Mag: What are the best ways to keep this process running smoothly?

Casagrand: I have several recommendations:

  • Appoint a project manager from the credit union side;
  • Be very organized. Know what you want to do and changes you want to make, and have executive signoff on this before starting the conversion; and
  • Keep in mind, first and foremost, that a conversion is a big process—it takes a lot of input and effort from the credit union side.
Information Systems Guide
Credit Union Magazine's 2011 Information Systems Guide highlights the credit union movement's top core processors and their systems' features and functions.

So don’t take on too many other projects during the conversion. It takes a toll on credit union staff.

Bilke: We’ve seen it all—credit unions that do core conversions and mergers at the same time. We can bring a lot of resources, but the key credit union staff have limitations.

Credit unions need to accept that core conversions are hard—there’s no such thing as an easy conversion. You have to assemble the right team, minimize disruptions, build a comprehensive plan, stay on plan, and resist the temptation to delay or defer activities or decisions.

Typically, what isn’t negotiable is that conversion date. If you let things slide, you risk having a wave come over your head.

Casagrand: It’s a domino effect: If you miss one or two key events, you’ll have a heck of a time catching up. Don’t miss milestones.

CU Mag: What happens if a CU misses a milestone?

Bilke: We look at stoplight charts that tell us whether the credit union or our employees are meeting or missing their deadlines. This allows us to react quickly and either apply more resources from the vendor side or make sure we have the right focus from the credit union side.

This is invaluable. Those stoplight reports go all the way up to myself, as president, as well as to the credit union’s senior executive team.

Casagrand: As a sideline to those reports, I have all managers give me weekly reports on conversion status. That gives me a bird’s eye view of anything that might be slipping on our side or the credit union side, and we can address it immediately. We have a lot of checks and balances in place.

Bilke: Our conversions culminate in an integrated test week, typically about a month before the conversion date. It’s a direct rehearsal for the conversion itself. At that point we’re tweaking and refining, vs. what the industry has done historically—throwing a big Hail Mary pass those last couple of weeks.

Next: What causes delays?

One source for a conversion story?

mike lawson
January 13, 2011 12:18 pm
Hey Bill:
This was a very informative story, thank you. If there's a similar article coming up, can there be more sources than experts from one company? It would be interesting to see the differences in their responses.

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Bonus coverage

Bill Merrick
January 14, 2011 10:37 am

This is one of a few "online extra" articles we published in addition to our annual Information Systems Guide and the main core conversion feature from the December Credit Union Magazine, "Building a better core."

Thus the one source.

Here are a couple more online extras that address core processing:
* "It's more than the core" and
* "Don't get dust in the server and other core conversion lessons."


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