There are few responsibilities that instill fear and anguish in leaders quite like replacing software systems. Whether it is because of past experiences of failed projects, ballooning scope and costs, or the vast number of solutions available today, the process is daunting. Due to the sheer number of decisions and ramifications, we see many of our clients opt out and not make any changes, just limping along with systems that either don’t support or actively hinder their operations.
However, this challenge does not need to be intimidating. Just like the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, the selection of a new software package can be successfully achieved by using a methodical approach. Wipfli recommends a five-step approach that lays out the stages and milestones required to find a solution that optimizes value and helps achieve goals.
1. Identify the goals. By clearly defining the “why, what, and how” of your institution’s needs, you will find it easier to evaluate potential solutions. If the why is a growing footprint and the need to have easy access to systems from remote branches, then a cloud-based application may be the best fit. If consumer self-service is driving the decision, then intuitive user interface and robust security may bubble to the top. Identifying the strategic needs will help guide the process from start to finish.
2. Gather data. The next step is to challenge stakeholders in your institution to identify what is required of a new system. It is important to remember that you are not redesigning your old system, but rather identifying key business processes that will give you competitive advantages in the marketplace. By identifying and prioritizing these key features, you can hone in on a software package that excels at executing these market-differentiating processes for you.
3. Document. One of the key elements in evaluating a new software package is making sure the software providers understand what you are looking for. By laying out your institution’s background as well as the goals of the project, you help provide the context they need to understand the strategy around the new software. Also, if you add detailed feature requirements and day-to-day transaction process use cases, the providers can show and tell you how their solution can drive value for your financial institution.
4. See for yourself. Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few potential solutions, ask the software providers to come to you and show you how the system will work. Provide specific processes and ask them to walk through the system so you can see and feel how it will work firsthand. From simple transaction activity to complex financial reporting to the consumer online experience, you need to see the system in use with your processes before moving on to the next phase with the providers.
5. Decide. This seems like the most difficult point, but if you’ve moved through steps 1–4, actually making a decision is a validation of the process to this point, not a guess. By checking the boxes on organization strategy and overall system requirements and putting the system through a vigorous demonstration script, you should have a framework for making the correct decision.
It’s important to note that although software selection is challenging for the team tasked with choosing the new system, any new software rollout is disruptive to the entire employee base as well. Even if the implementation of the system goes 100% according to plan, your employees will have to deal with changes to their daily work. The key to making this change less disruptive is communication. Even in the early selection stages where you don’t even have the software picked, information shared with employees can set the stage for quality interaction. It also helps staff start to accept that change is coming and that they will be involved in the journey along the way.
Choosing the right software system can be managed and quality results can be achieved by using this methodical approach. By identifying the drivers for change, isolating the key business processes the new system will need to execute, and talking with your staff about the process, your new software system can be the catalyst for achieving your institution’s goals.