'New System Under Construction'

Core conversions require top-notch communication and planning.

January 21, 2011
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It takes more than a tornado to keep these core conversion cowboys down.

But a twister that arrived at a crucial time during a core conversion in Illinois did make Maura McKay realize that even during such a highly scheduled event, “some things aren’t in your control.”

That’s why McKay, vice president, core system implementations at Harland Financial Solutions, and her colleagues—Harland Financial Solutions’ Sharon Alexander, senior manager, implementation services, and Tom Berdan, vice president, product management—work hard to control what they can during the nearly year-long process.

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.

They share their core conversion expertise with Credit Union Magazine.

CU Mag: What are some keys to core conversion success?

Alexander: Success depends on the combined efforts of both the credit union and the conversion team.

Effective communication and planning are crucial. We assign a project manager who works closely with the credit union staff to tailor a conversion plan.

Some things we recommend:

  • Set clear expectations with staff at the very beginning;
  • Ensure buy-in to the project schedule and assigned roles and responsibilities;
  • Be upfront with staff about the investment of time and effort that will be required, along with the payoff once the conversion is complete. This will prepare staff for the work that’s coming up.
  • Maintain your commitment to the project schedule once it has been agreed upon, understanding there will be some changes.

Having too many last-minute changes to scheduled events or not meeting key milestone dates has a negative impact on the vendor’s and the credit union’s conversion team.

  • Establish a team of credit union staff from each functional area. We look for staff who are capable and authorized to make decisions for their departments.
  • Plan some internal and external marketing plans so everyone understands the goals and benefits of the conversion. Talk to staff about how the conversion will help them serve members better.
  • Train, and then train some more. Our mantra is, “after training, practice, practice, practice.”

To maximize the training’s effectiveness, the credit union should schedule role play or practice time for staff upon completion of training classes. This reinforces understanding gained during the class by providing opportunities to use their new knowledge.

Next: What shouldn’t CUs do?

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