Credit union IT directors and administrators fear it. At times, it may keep them up at night. However, it doesn’t have to. The dreaded core processing system conversion can be a relatively smooth transition.
If your organization has a good plan from the start, it can weather the storm and land on dry ground during and after a core conversion. Here are seven reasons why a core conversion isn’t as overwhelming as you think:
Every aspect of a core conversion deserves careful preparation, which includes “what if” scenarios. While no core conversion will take place completely devoid of snags, dealing with a challenge is so much easier if you’ve already prepared for it ahead of time.
Remember to open your mind to what could go wrong. This is one area where letting your imagination run wild is a good thing.
The more structured your core conversion deadlines are, the better. Will some of those deadlines ebb and flow? Sure. That said, having an evidence-based timeline rooted in the information at hand will provide vital structure and keep employees churning toward mini-goals within the larger framework of the system conversion.
Choosing a core processing provider that has a knowledgeable support team is essential. For example, if your provider is a Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO), then you’ll benefit from a certain level of industry expertise — and piece of mind — from start to finish of your conversion.
If your staff is trained well and is helped to understand why your core conversion matters, the process will thrive. Seemingly small but actually key components of team building for core conversions include:
The growth of cloud services and new technologies has driven increased flexibility in core processing systems, which is creating an atmosphere of less pressure before, during, and after core conversions. Credit unions have room to change their minds and/or adapt to rapidly shifting trends much more easily than ever before — even during a conversion.
Keeping a core system up-to-date and in compliance with federal regulations is easier than it used to be, thanks in part to the influx of digitally available resources. Easy-to-use tools regarding cyber security and much more are online, just waiting to be utilized. These are excellent for learning, double-checking and sparking new ideas.
With a core provider such as CUProdigy, which is a CUSO, credit unions have the opportunity to literally take ownership. It’s an investment in the future of the industry, as well as a natural way to instill a greater sense of control during your core conversion.
By taking ownership of their movement toward new technologies and a future-proof architecture, many credit unions are finding unique confidence and ease of use throughout their core conversions.
Cloud-based credit union core processors are quickly becoming more of a necessity than a wish list item. New technologies can improve both the member and employee experience, but they’re only feasible atop a core infrastructure that is agile and cost-effective.
Here are five ways an old core can be a liability for your credit union:
Not unlike a house, you don’t want to build a credit union core on an unpredictable foundation. Many legacy core processing systems were orchestrated long before the Internet took off, back when internally initiated transactions were the main concern. Today’s credit union core must account for direct interaction with members, too.
It’s difficult to justify paying for a lot of emerging technologies and next-wave services unless the underlying infrastructure is apt to handle an escalating load.
An old, outdated credit union core simply can’t accommodate one of the most essential aspects of networking: agility. With existing technologies constantly evolving and new services emerging practically every day, a productive core is one that can be integrated with new partners and services quickly and efficiently.
Truly responsive implementation of technologies that make life easier for credit union employees and members is only feasible with a modern-day core. The older and more outdated your traditional core system becomes, the more unlikely it is that it will be able to facilitate major changes.
On several levels, staying with an old core can be a liability to your credit union’s budget. The amount of man-hours spent trouble-shooting an outdated and equipment-heavy core can be drastically reduced by transitioning to software-based solutions.
Besides saving money on man-hours, hardware, installation and even seat license costs, credit unions also can leverage an updated core and new technologies to boost their member base and retain their best employees.
For many credit unions, the uncommon but potentially crippling liability is the scariest one of all. Executives at such organizations constantly fear the effects of an IT disaster — effects such as livid members, lost data, and fed-up employees.
The older and more outdated the core, the longer it likely will take to get your operations up and running again. Meanwhile the clock is ticking on involved parties’ patience and threshold for pain.
A browser-based recovery system can restore a credit union’s system much more quickly than traditional cores — and prevent data loss in the process.
Modern-day commerce is rife with security concerns, as malicious hackers constantly change their tactics in adaptation to security trends. Attacking the information that flows within a credit union’s network is now just as popular as trying to intercept the data that travels in and out.
Rather than old core systems, it takes next-generation firewall technology to protect precious member information that is traveling in all directions.
Overall, converting to a cloud-based core processing system is one of the best ways to ensure your old core is not a liability.
For credit unions, core conversions are the elephant in the room. It’s something the industry wants to avoid, largely because of associated costs, but that often needs to be done. But how do you know when a core conversion is necessary?
Here are 5 signs it’s time for a core conversion at your credit union:
The more outdated a credit union’s core software is, the more frequently the team will be prompted to download and install updates. In some cases employees are asked to check for these updates on a regular basis. Sometimes the updates end up being extremely important, such as solutions to major problems or bugs.
Core software updates can be cumbersome and time-intensive, and sometimes they simply don’t work — especially when the employee running the update doesn’t understand the process.
The best way to reduce the frequency of and boost the efficiency of required updates, ensure that software runs more smoothly, and bolster network security, is to make sure your credit union’s core software is a modern solution.
When a credit union’s core processor woes escalate from a mild nuisance to a hindrance to employee satisfaction, it’s time for a change — especially when the sentiment is pervasive throughout the organization.
When everyone from member-facing employees to upper management are having their essential duties disrupted on a regular basis, your credit union likely needs to begin researching first steps toward a core conversion.
There are a variety of ways in which core providers often do a disservice to credit unions. Some providers reduce support staff to such an extent that credit unions are negatively affected. Sometimes failure to meet expectations, fulfill promises or meet deadlines becomes a pattern. Even while the level of service by a core provider wanes, often costs soar.
When the price of core services clearly no longer matches what your credit union is receiving in return, a core conversion should be considered.
Many credit unions make the intelligent decision to schedule their core conversion to coincide with the rollout of new products and services aimed at improving member loyalty and satisfaction.
Whether changing the entire core system or deploying impressive new technologies to keep clients and employees happy, ups and downs are expected throughout the process. Working out these kinks all at once instead of at multiple junctures is the most prudent, time-efficient and cost-effective approach.
Every credit union ultimately answers to its members, whose experiences are made worse by trends such as:
On the back end of an outdated core system, credit union employees feel the pain with every cost-ineffective move they make. On the front end, community members certainly notice when their member experience fails to meet modern-day expectations.
That’s when it’s time for a core conversion.
Deploying a new core system for your credit union can be daunting, to say the least. However, developing a rock-solid core conversion roll-out plan at the very beginning of the process can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth transition for everyone, from your members to your staff and executive team.
Here are several well-proven tips for how to create a core conversion roll-out plan:
Detailed, well-crafted core conversion timelines are only as good as an organization’s ability to follow the plan and keep the staff engaged. It’s imperative that team members remember when important deadlines are approaching, as well as when and why those deadlines must be adjusted.
Problems arise when employees encounter unclear directions. Without the details necessary to complete each step and process, people begin guessing — and there’s no room for guesswork during a core conversion project.
A modern-day marketing plan for a core systems conversion should take advantage of the broad communication toolkit that credit unions have at their disposal.
Essential elements of a core conversion roll-out marketing plan include:
Any switch to new core software will directly and deeply impact staff, which is why your credit union’s employees will need mandatory training sessions set up months in advance. They need advance notice so they can make the necessary vacation adjustments, and you need plenty of time to formulate the best type of education for your employees.
There’s no way around it: Regardless of how well you and your team prepare, your core conversion will be met with negative feedback. How you address customer frustration most certainly will affect member retention and the reputation of your organization.
From social media responses to phone conversations, presenting a united front with completely consistent messaging from all corners of your organization is an important part of any core systems conversion.
The bottom-line benefits of a core conversion are virtually irrefutable, but the process isn’t without its challenges. If your credit union has a core conversion on the horizon, carefully mapping the steps toward this significant change is essential.
Making the decision to implement a core conversion can give credit unions a lot to deal with. Among the issues to reconcile is what—and when—to communicate to employees. Certainly employee engagement is important. Helping staff know what to expect can go a long way toward maintaining productivity and facilitating good, ongoing service to members.
Here are 10 things to tell credit union staff members when undergoing a core conversion:
Holding regular meetings is helpful so that you can keep employees updated in small chunks. Each week, let them know what key changes will be coming so they are not blindsided.
Focus part of your weekly meetings on the aspects of your conversion activities that will directly impact how your employees do their jobs.
Clearly identify what members will experience during each phase of the conversion. This is especially critical for people in member-facing positions.
Whether a change impacts employees or customers, let your staff members know how to work around any change or downtime in system functionality. Never just leave them wondering or sitting around with no options to get things done.
When telling staff about what things will change, also highlight what will not change. It can be reassuring to know that some things will be kept the same, but it will also prevent questions about changes that really are not even part of the process.
Any time that a part of your system will be unavailable, even just for a couple of hours, your staff must know. Be as specific as possible about when the downtime will begin so that employees can plan their work accordingly.
Similarly, let staff know how long any lack of system availability will last. Again, this can help team members plan their work and also communicate appropriately to members who may have similar questions.
If a delay occurs, let your employees know as soon as possible that the downtime may last longer than originally expected. Proactive notification goes a long way toward preventing additional problems.
Be as detailed as possible when giving instructions on new systems or features. This will get people working efficiently sooner and keep morale and member satisfaction up.
Your employees will have questions along the way. Make sure they know who to go to in order to get those questions answered.
There really can be no substitute for good communication when undergoing a major change like a core conversion.
Your employees are essential assets for your credit union, and keeping them informed goes a long way toward keeping them with you. When you cultivate engaged employees, you also cultivate satisfied members.
Credit unions still running on legacy systems originally built to meet the batch processing needs of in-branch transactions have to face the daunting task of completing a core conversion. This process can enable institutions to effectively handle the anywhere, anytime request for real-time transactional processing.
The benefits of a core conversion are clear, yet the path to achieving it is not always as simple. Before embarking upon this endeavor, credit union leaders should be aware of some common errors. This can help guide a more efficient transition and result in better outcomes. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid during a core conversion:
Business needs, not technology, should fuel and drive a core conversion while technology supports and facilitates it. Credit union leadership must first identify the processes and end results needed and then let teams, including IT, make it happen.
A full-blown core conversion will involve many stages. Completing these one at a time rather than simultaneously helps teams troubleshoot issues more effectively along the way. When too many changes are made at once, it can be near impossible to identify the root of a problem and to therefore fix it.
Akin to the point above, adding other changes or enhancements while also engaging in a core conversion increases the chance of additional problems.
Every change should be tested as it is implemented and before initiating the next change.
The level of documentation needed in a core conversion is immense but necessary. Skimping here will make solving issues more difficult.
A clear project plan must be put in place up front. This should identify the steps, teams and timelines and be updated in real time as the project progresses.
When it comes to informing members about changes, there is no such thing as too much communication.
No matter how well you communicate ahead of time, members will have questions, and your employees must be able to answer them immediately to avoid grave dissatisfaction issues.
Overloading your customer service and other employees with member questions when they are in the throes of learning a new system can seriously hamper employee relations and engagement.
Even the best system will have problems at some point. Every core conversion plan should include provisions for what to do when this happens.
It is possible to not just survive a core conversion, but also for a credit union to thrive from one. The right foresight and approach will make all the difference here.
Even when your credit union is well prepared, the core conversion process can be difficult. With more than 25 years of experience in the credit union core software industry, CUProdigy has learned all of the major pitfalls in this complicated process. The following infographic encourages credit unions to take ten simple steps leading up to their actual conversions. These simple preparations should help all credit unions, regardless of the specific core platform they select. The infographic is also available for free download in PDF form here.
Technology is constantly changing before our eyes—even missing a few weeks of tech news could contain the latest info on the development of flying cars, or a sneak peek of Sony’s new gaming console. We’re in a similar situation with the software running on our desktops, phones, and tablets; they are constantly changing.
Update notifications are all around us, but why? In most cases, the changes are just improvements to existing features. However, sometimes updates fix major problems and bugs, and they’re implemented to improve the stability and security of the application or program, which makes you think twice about ignoring the notifications.
Credit unions experience these updates to their core software on a regular basis; however, if a credit union is using old core software, these “updates” can be a real pain. Updates require users to download and install the changes, which takes time. It’s also standard procedure to manually check for updates, which is cumbersome in and of itself. In addition, software updates take up space on the server, and if users fail to install, their credit union will suffer.
Ignoring updates may prevent customer data from remaining secure or reliable. The older the software, typically the less developers are interested in upkeep and maintenance. The original developers may not even be working on the software anymore to develop necessary security patches that keep cores safe. Given the sensitivity of the data stored in credit unions’ core software, data can’t afford to be compromised.
Another problem with running old core software is that credit unions may run into compatibility issues with newer technology. As credit unions continue to invest in more recent technology, they may find that an out-of-date core creates compatibility concerns as systems don’t match up.
For those in the credit union industry, efficiency is key. Utilizing old core software means that features and functionality won’t be as proficient as they could be—ultimately hurting productivity.
New software tends to offer users more options and more opportunities to customize to meet their specific needs. Older cores remain less flexible, meaning that the user interface isn’t as navigable or effective.
Inadequate Disaster Recovery
Without a plan in place, credit unions with old core software may find themselves in a real predicament when disaster strikes or their server crashes. Where will data be stored and will there be any potential data loss? How long will it take before data can be accessed? If the answers to these questions are: yes, there may be data loss, and it may take longer than even a few hours to access, credit unions can expect to have some very frustrated members.
Poor (or No) Customer Service
A solid support staff is key to any great business—software shouldn’t be any different. Old cores may have a limited customer service staff to rely on, or even worse, none at all. So where do credit unions turn for technical assistance? Old developers? In-house IT staff?
At the end of the day, an out-of-date core at your CU prevents you from providing an efficient tool to employees and offering a secure product to members. Having current core software is the bottom line—and it’s vital to the bottom line of your credit union. Not only is your data more secure and reliable with a current core, but credit union employees will be more productive and efficient with core software that runs smoothly. This ultimately translates into great service and improved member satisfaction, which is what it’s all about.
Change is good. Change is exciting and optimistic, but change can also be worrisome, stressful, and disconcerting to say the least. A client of ours recently experienced the range of emotions that comes with any change as they converted to our CUProdigy Core Processing System.
Idaho State University Credit Union, which possesses about $130 million in assets, made the transition to our core software earlier this month. In addition to converting to a new core, ISUCU simultaneously merged the members and assets of Pocatello Teacher’s Credit Union as well. Though this was a daunting task for everyone involved, this undertaking was successful due to excellent cooperation and teamwork from the staff at Idaho State University CU and the CUDP conversion team.
Idaho State University Credit Union CEO, Robert Taylor, praised the recent conversion: “Good job and thanks to everyone for their diligence in helping our members this week during the conversion. If this was your first core system conversion, you may not fully appreciate just how well this conversion went. …this was by far the easiest conversion I have ever experienced…my hat’s off to CUDP for how quickly they responded to unforeseen errors that were fixed immediately.”
As a leading provider of credit union software and support, we are excited to add ISUCU and their entire staff to our CUSO. It is our main goal to successfully bring new credit unions onto the CUProdigy System and watch as they offer improved member experience and increase their level of service. Across the board, change proved to be a good thing– this conversion was a total success!
-Craig Peterson, Director of Marketing, CUDP
Late 2012 brought Hurricane Sandy to the shores of the east coast. This catastrophe made a huge impact on the New York area, causing people to lose power for days. Another consequence of this outage was the effect on the credit union branches in the area. Many members lost access to their accounts, and more than 14,000 did not get their usual paycheck deposits in time to pay bills. Truth is, these disasters can strike anytime, which is why it’s vital to be prepared.
Robert McGarvey of the Credit Union Times stated shortly after Hurricane Sandy that “every credit union needs a disaster recovery plan.” We couldn’t agree more, which is why disaster recovery is something that has been our focus from the very beginning. When we started developing our latest core processing software, we did it with the mindset that disasters are always an unexpected event, so the only way to be fully prepared is with an adequate disaster recovery system.
We knew that a DR system needed to be reliable, yet realistic in the face of disaster. Our CUProdigy system provides access to CU information within 45 minutes from any computer that can get an Internet connection. Once connected, every keystroke is replicated in five locations in real time. Between these backup sites, at least one location is more than 100 miles from the credit union, ensuring the safety and protection of your information.
To us, providing this type of reliability and dependability in a core solution is the only way to protect your credit union from those unexpected events. In the event that your credit union is disrupted, you and your members can rest assure as they can continue to make transfers, receive direct deposit, or make a change to their account. Since all of our backups are accessed through the browser, setting up a temporary teller station at a secure location is quick and easy. This type of security is what builds trust to members.
CUProdigy is in the unique position to help Credit Unions ‘Advance Beyond’ by providing a core processing platform that puts the member experience first. CUProdigy empowers credit unions with a comprehensive solution that is both robust and scalable.