Seamless Integration: Key Strategies for Core System Implementation

So, you’ve done all the major work to select a new core system, including ensuring that it aligns with your organization’s strategy and long-term goals. You feel confident that you’ve selected the right vendor and internal team to prepare for implementation, which may have taken several months or a year. Now launch day has arrived, and your top goal is to accomplish a seamless integration that will bring you out the other side without losing customers or frustrating your employees. How do you do it? 

Tiffany Jane, PRI consultant, dives into some tips and tricks that financial institutions should be employing to implement a new core system with a high rate of success. 

Communication is king.

In the article 4 Keys to Improving Communication, Forbes notes that research finds only 31% of employees believe their leaders communicate effectively. Jane says that open and frequent communication can make or break a core system implementation project. 

She points out that people tend to receive communications in different ways and recommends using multiple channels and methods to reach target audiences. Frequency is also important to ensure that people have many opportunities over an extended period to absorb the information. Jane recommends setting communications plan expectations anytime there is an organized activity around core system implementation, such as a monthly vendor check-in during the weeks leading up to the launch date.

Vendor communication. Solid two-way communication between the bank and the core systems vendor is critical. Some key communication points between the vendor and the FI could include:

  • Status of the project
  • Mapping discussions/changes
  • Hurdles
  • Client impact decisions

Team communication. Within the bank, there should be open, transparent communication at all levels, so that employees in impacted areas clearly understand their respective roles. Good communication eases concerns, smooths the transition, minimizes disruption, and identifies challenges quickly so they can be headed off at the pass.

“During a core system implementation, set up touch points every couple of hours throughout the day with the leads of all teams to discuss project progress, the big ‘ahas’ and the items that need to be addressed,” Jane said. “Ensure that you identify any red flags to revisit at the next touch point and discuss how you will set up communication with all who need to know what’s going on.”

Customer communication. Your customers need to know what they must do to experience less disruption when accessing the FI’s services.

For example, if they will be receiving new debit cards, they need to know when their old debit card will no longer work and understand any extra steps to take or fees that may be associated with their account. 

Provide support for customers and employees. 

Jane says it’s important to provide a support team for both employee and client support during a core conversion. Have a team in place for employees to call or go to with questions or when an issue arises that they need help handling. Similarly, prepare the call center for customer calls, which the FI will inevitably receive more of during the core conversion. If you don’t have a call center, dedicate resources for one, even if it’s outsourced. Don’t let the call center become an island. 

Dedicate employees to the project.

While dedicated resources can be hard to come by for the entirety of the core implementation project, it’s important to do so to avoid wasting time getting new people up to speed mid-way through. During test week, have a team in place to be onsite with the core vendor throughout the process. This should be outside of their normal job duties so that nothing falls through the cracks. 

“Know who your core team is and have them dedicated to the project from beginning to end,” Jane said.

Get buy-in from key stakeholders. 

Having upper management believe in the project goes a long way to keeping employees engaged. In addition, the key stakeholders who are on the front lines are crucial to the success of the core conversion. 

“Management needs to be excited about the project and let everyone know they are excited,” Jane said. “Key stakeholders, especially those who lead groups, want to know and should communicate that the decision was a good one. This helps everyone get on board and contribute to the success of the core conversion.”  

Do the online training. 

Often there is online training offered when a new product is purchased, and your employees will be leaps and bounds ahead if they do the training before the core implementation project begins. In addition, employees who dedicate themselves to taking the online training give themselves a leg up by becoming a trusted resource for their colleagues during a core conversion.  You may even consider rewarding employees for completing the online training. 

Invest in a project manager. 

With so many moving pieces going on during a core conversion process, it is important to have a dedicated person onsite to keep track of the details and be the go-between for the vendor and the FI. Removing some of the tedious project management tasks from the shoulders of the core conversion and implementation team reduces stress and increases success.  This project manager may be a full-time employee of the FI, or you may find an outsourced partner such as PRI to fill this role.

In the article Tips and Best Practices for Managing a Project, Sue Schmiedeler, PRI project manager, says a good project management process will minimize business disruption and maximize efficiencies and long-term benefits, including profitability. 

Plan to bring in special treats. 

Depending on the size of the project, core system implementation can be exhausting for employees who may be working 9- to 14-hour days during “go live” week. Planning for organized breaks can be really rewarding and recognizes the sacrifice they are making. Some FIs have brought in massage therapists or an ice cream or food truck break to show their appreciation. One FI provided a selection of fun gifts from local small businesses for the team to choose from.  Get creative! 

Engage in self-care. 

During hectic core conversion weeks, there is much sitting and redundancy in the tasks that must be done, and Jane says it’s important to take care of yourself. She advises taking breaks, getting outside or doing anything that provides a little normalcy to avoid becoming worn out and possibly miss things. Self-care revives and keeps you sharp so you can return to work and conquer the tasks you need to accomplish. 


4 Keys to Improving Communication – Forbes

Tips and Best Practices for Managing a Project Part 1 – PRI

Profit Resources specializes in identifying profitability improvement areas for financial institutions through revenue growth, cost control, streamlining processes, and effective use of technology. Contact us to learn more about our personalized approach to propel growth and improve profitability.

Search Profit Resources