Susan Glover Insight & Advice

Why Conversions Fail

Published on Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why Conversions Fail

I have been involved in many conversions and have seen many changes throughout the years – especially with technology.

But there is one thing that has changed very little – why conversions fail.

“Advisors didn’t say…” vs. “Vendors should have known…”

Everybody gets so caught up in the blame game that nobody thinks about the problem at hand which is the system doesn’t work.  Instead of fixing problems and resolving issues, advisors and vendors are quick to point fingers at each other. Stubbornness takes over because advisory firms don’t want to pay for something that doesn’t work and vendors don’t want to relinquish the revenues.

Let’s get to the heart of the problem. There are many reasons conversions fail. Here are some of the issues, why both parties are responsible, and a few tips to minimize the problems.

Insufficient business requirements
Advisors don’t spend enough time upfront on their business requirements. Many business requirements omit key information needed for a successful conversion. Examples include stories behind the data, dictating only some of the firm’s needs or miscommunicating the needs, and not including all clients’ needs in the requirements process.  An insufficient business requirements, or needs assessment, will result in incorrect assumptions by the vendor.

Incomplete project timelines
The project timeline provided by the vendor is the vendor’s timeline to convert the data to the new technology. The timeline may not fully address what will be done during each phase, how much of your time is necessary, whether vacation time has been incorporated, or may not factor in enough time for testing and resolving issues. There may be a date for delivery of data, but not tasks or time for acceptance of the data.

Your timeline needs to include tasks necessary to fully understand the new technology, implement new work-flow processes, develop new client reports, and change your client services procedures. 

Unrealistic expectations (advisors) vs. promises (vendors)
The biggest complaint from advisors is that vendors made promises they couldn’t keep. Examples are features that aren’t currently available but will be included in the next release (and are not in the next release), integration that really isn’t, and claims that the software can handle any situation and then it becomes clear the software is not able to handle certain situations.

Vendors claim that advisors don’t ask enough questions which lead to assumptions about what the technology can do. Advisors become angry when those assumptions aren’t true and blame vendors for the problem.

Inadequate resources and testing processes
The vendor’s conversion team is pressured to get the project done and move on to the next project. When the process is delayed, a common approach is to deliver the application without properly testing it, leaving your firm to perform those tasks.

Your designated staff that assists with the conversion is also very busy. That person could be relying on the vendor to test the data properly.

Tips to minimize headaches and increases in conversion costs

  • The actual implementation and conversion is the third phase of the conversion process. The first phase is the business requirements, or needs assessment. The second phase is evaluation and selection. A proper assessment will result in a thorough evaluation and a high probability of making the right selection. This will reduce the number of surprises that occur during the conversion.
  • Glitches and bumps along the way don’t render the conversion a failure. Mismanagement of the glitches and bumps do. Good project management skills and management oversight from both parties will enable a successful conversion. Be careful with quick solutions that may impact your conversion down the road. Work through the problem at hand and make sure other areas are not affected by the solution.
  •  You are ultimately responsible for the conversion.  At the end of the day, 1) it’s your data, not the vendor’s and 2) your clients will be looking to you for answers, not the vendor.

 Want more tips for a successful conversion? Contact SG&A today.

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