Most implementations require some form of conversion exercise for integrating data from an existing platform into the new system—a process that can be tedious and time consuming for all involved. I recall an engagement five years ago where a conversion was conducted over the course of six consecutive weekends. My colleagues started to look like white walkers toward the end and herculean efforts were required to complete the exercise. To help avoid a situation like this, straight-forward steps can be taken to steer clear of conversion pitfalls. Below I outline five guiding principles that can help reduce your conversion effort and increase your chances of success.
1. Test in Advance
Testing seems like a no brainer, right? You would be surprised how often I have seen minimal testing conducted prior to a conversion. Most organizations maintain multiple environments consisting of some form of Dev, Test, QA, and Production. Use them! Conduct mock migrations in advance of the big conversion weekend. These don’t have to be a perfect mirror of what will actually occur, but anything done in advance will help surface issues that can be addressed prior to the actual conversion.
Resources are not unlimited. Break your conversion down into sensible tranches that are manageable by those involved in the process. Migrating a million position records across ten thousand accounts in a weekend? Break it down by account type or even the asset classes of positions you are converting. Keep the migration realistic and achievable to mitigate the risk of a “death by a thousand papercuts” situation that so many conversions can become victims of.
3. Set Expectations
Just because someone is a highly skilled end user of an accounting platform does not guarantee they are going to be experts when it comes time for migrating data in and out of that system. Take the time to make sure everyone involved understands the objective of the conversion and more importantly what the expectations are of them. There will likely be a need for all involved to take on different types of work outside of their daily job requirements. Make sure everyone is aware and understands how to execute in these new roles.
4. Define Success
It is not uncommon for a migration to occur over a weekend only to come into the office Monday with the everyone asking, "So where are we?". The question is soon followed with blank stares and ambiguous responses. Before you formulate a plan and timeline for your conversion, revisit project scope, review requirements, and clearly define what success means for the migration. Having a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve will only assist in ensuring the necessary steps are taken to get there.
5. Reward Yourself and Your Team
Conversions are challenging and time consuming for everyone involved. They require long hours, sacrificing weekends, and can even create unrest amongst teams. Follow that with having to go back to your day job once the conversion is complete, and you'll find that many people can quickly become burned out. Following conversion completion, make sure to take the time to reward your team and yourself. For me, that’s a good pump in the gym followed by a Crown Royal on the rocks and an Arturo Fuente Queen B. For the team, give everyone Friday off and take them to a golf outing or season opener game.
While there is no silver bullet for conversions, the guidelines above will help increase your chances of success significantly—but they won’t guarantee perfection. It’s also important to make sure you have the right team overseeing your next project and consider consulting with the experts before things go awry. As you undertake your next conversion and implementation project, consider these principles before getting started to up your odds of a favorable outcome.