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How to Successfully Implement your New Collections System

Over my career I have found that the happiest clients are the ones who successfully implemented their solution on-time and on-budget and can maintain and operate the system with limited vendor support.  In this light, new clients often ask me what they can do to ensure both a successful implementation and knowledge transfer to their staff for a complex system like their new collections system (sometimes called their CRM system).  Clients recognize that they have a great deal of control over how they position themselves for short and long-term success.

There are many things clients can do to maximize their likelihood of success.  While there is no one “right answer,” below are some of the best practices I have seen over time:

  • Dedicated Resources.  When you are replacing a core system or your operations, I strongly urge that you make the project a priority for your IT and Operations staff.  The most successful clients assign some of their best resources (their “A” Team) to the project on a full-time basis, so they can focus on the implementation and knowledge transfer without competing demands.  While assigning your best people to the project can be a strain on any organization, those are the folks you want to be positioned as your future experts on the new system.
  • Training.  Training is delivered early in the project so clients can quickly develop foundational knowledge of the system.  FICO also can assign staff to provide ongoing support and mentoring during the project to help ensure that client staff became experts on the product.  This follows the old adage: Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.  For this reason, I often advocate giving client staff a larger role during the implementation, so they are well positioned to take over management and operations of the system after go-live.
  • Willingness to jump in.  When staff assigned to the project are eager and excited to jump in and learn the new product, the project is typically more successful.  Many staff want to become the experts for their organization.  These staff come to the project with the right mind set and encouragement from their organization.
  • Open to change.  Prior to using a collection system, like for example FICO’s Debt Manager, most clients are locked into doing things a certain way due of significant legacy system limitations.  Because your new collection system will a significant breadth of features and configurability it is important to develop a mindset that process changes can be implemented easily using your new system as opposed to trying to run your business the same way, just on a new system. This is integral to allowing your business to evolve as the technology does.
  • Tech Savvy.  Truly modern collection systems are implemented through configuration rather than modification.  A modern system should not require programming support for configuration.  Business users should be able to manage the application, rather than being dependent on IT for even the simplest changes.  That said, you need to assign business users who are comfortable interacting with the system to make configuration changes.  To support these needs, it helps when project staff are tech savvy and are comfortable using and managing new technology.
  • Agile Methodology.  We have seen that an agile approach can help our clients get live quickly.  Our clients have used FICO’s proven agile methodology to achieve benefits faster, go live quicker, and assure their staff are ready to successfully operate the system. This also allows our clients to test the system earlier in the process, as areas are configured to ensure progress, and build confidence with the new system.

Characteristics of a Strong Client Team

There is no one right set of skills for a client team, but below are characteristics for staffing that we have seen lead to success both during the implementation and subsequent ongoing operations.

  • Quick decisions.  During the implementation, teams need to make quick decisions to avoid getting stuck at crucial points.  Delays in decision making can cause day-for-day delays in the go-live date.  One approach to minimize these delays is daily or every other day brief meetings to discuss progress and assure that decisions affecting the team are made quickly.  Also, by empowering your team and providing them with access to key decision makers, they can continually move the project forward.  It also helps when staff are dedicated to the project, so progress is not slowed due to other operational priorities.
  • Strong communication.  Once decisions are made, they need to be communicated across the team, and as Sprints move forward, strong teams ensure everyone knows the status, upcoming milestones and expectations.  Proactive communication also helps ensure everyone knows their expectations and is working towards the same timeline and goals.
  • Capable, Savvy team.  A strong team will deliver a higher level of success.  Some team members need to be strong technically, while others need to understand the business requirements to assure those requirements are translated into the workflow of the new system.  In addition, these staff will become the evangelists for the new system within the organization.

Overcoming a Reluctance to Change

One challenge some teams face is a desire of some team members to re-build their current processes step-by-step into the new system.  I find that the best teams understand their underlying business requirements and are open and eager to achieving those requirements, utilizing the capabilities of the new system, even if it changes their current processes.  Teams discover that your new modern collection system does not require the same workarounds as the old system, allowing for higher productivity.

Teams can be challenged when they try to force the new system to recreate their processes the same way it has always done it.  When this occurs, you can end up with unnecessary configurations and suboptimal processes.  After go-live, end-users typically discover how the base functionality in fact meets their requirements and find the new collection system accomplishes their tasks more efficiently.  I have seen where teams spend time and energy building complex configurations (despite our admonition that they are not needed) that the client does not end up using those configurations, as they are not actually needed.  This is another reason we strive to get live quickly, because clients will realize after go-live that some of their perceived “required” configurations are in fact not needed.

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