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How to Successfully Implement your New Collections System, Part 2

In part one of this series, I talked about selecting and empowering the right team to implement your new collections system.  This week I will describe how FICO’s hybrid agile implementation methodology allows our clients to implement our technology quickly, and with low risk help our clients achieve success.

Benefits of an Agile Methodology

Utilizing FICO’s agile methodology, we often advise clients to drive their implementation plan to focus on getting a few debt types and their must-have features live quickly.  Then you can layer on additional clients and debt types in subsequent releases.  This approach provides fast business benefits followed by ongoing additional benefits as more debts are added in subsequent sprints.  We find this implementation approach also allows client staff to quickly become fluent in the product, becoming masters with each subsequent sprint.  This results in faster knowledge transfer, further reducing the need for FICO’s presence during the subsequent sprints, which also reduces the cost of the implementation.

Benefits from this approach includes:

  • Faster return on investment – realize value and deliver return on investment quickly
  • Build a foundation that supports subsequent releases
  • Provide a strong perspective on how the base functionality supports your operation
  • Allow the client to add new configurations and workflows over time

Successful Implementation Tips

Many of our collection clients have large debt inventories.  They maintain and manage many debt types and debts from many different clients.  We have seen success from implementing an initial number of debt types followed by helping them quickly adding additional clients and debt types through subsequent releases. 

We typically suggest selecting initial debt types and/or clients that will utilize the full breadth of the system.  This gives the client full functionality from the new collection system, and by limiting the debt types and/or clients they can reduce the number of integration points needed for the first release to get them live quickly.

Let me illustrate this by providing an example of a recent collections client who converted onto our collection system, called Debt Manager.  This client was able to bring on their first set of debt types in just a matter of months.  Even though this initial go-live involved 2.2 million accounts, because they limited the number of debt types, they were able to streamline the number of ETLs needed, and the conversion was able to be easily accomplished over a weekend.  In addition, this ease of implementation allowed them to assign all of their new subsequent clients into the new collection system (even with tight deadlines), this allowed them to avoid having to put any new client on their legacy system and then later convert them the new system.

This approach can also be used to focus their team on using the best capabilities of their new collection system from the beginning.  Some clients are so used to the way their current system forces them to manage their inventory that they try to recreate their current processes and workarounds into the new system.  With a modern collection system, there are often much more efficient and automated ways to manage their inventory.

By implementing a limited number of debts and clients initially, agencies can also more comfortably utilize the features of the new system rather than manual or cumbersome workarounds.  Agencies are also often more willing to streamline processes in the initial phases because they know there will be subsequent rollouts if they want to add in additional processes later.  They don’t feel the need to finalize every aspect of the new collection system with the initial go-live.  We find that once they see their modern system in production, they find they like how it improves the management of their inventory, and they realize they don’t need to configure the workarounds they previously had to navigate.

If instead a “Big Bang” approach is used, I have seen where staff spends significant time building those workarounds from their current system into the new system, even when we advise them that they are not needed.  Then after go-live they discover that they don’t need to use many of them, because of the automation provided by the new collection system.

Staging debts and integrations

When a client develops their Sprint schedule, we typically recommend avoiding picking your most complex portfolio first.  By starting with a simpler debt type or client it helps the client focus on utilizing the capabilities of their new collection system, leveraging it to the greatest extent possible.  This helps put users onto the system quickly, so an initial set of users become comfortable with the significant capabilities that are provided out of the box.  Many of the historically complex scenarios are now handled through out-of-the-box capabilities, and getting the system live helps demonstrate the functionality in production.

In addition, the first agents using the system can become both evangelists and trainers for the next set of agents added.

Because your new collection system will have significant capabilities beyond the system it is replacing, clients see a very quick return on their investment.  Even the initial release of the collection system provides capabilities far ahead of the legacy system.  These improvements include features like support for one-to-many relationships – one individual or business could owe multiple debts, multiple debt types, and have debts from multiple debt holders.  Legacy systems typically require staff to work accounts individually and their demographic information is not linked.  On these older systems, when you update an address it only applies to the account you are currently working.  A modern collection system provides consolidation, allowing the agency to provide better customer service, make fewer calls, and resolve all their accounts on a single phone call.

Sprint reviews

It is important to ensure that the team is moving forward and achieving their planned results.  Rather than create large formal deliverables reviews, where the team throws a deliverable or work product over a proverbial wall, real-time Sprint Reviews are an excellent forum to share timely feedback, make course corrections where needed, and ensure the team is moving forward as expected. These reviews can:

  • Provide the project team and client leadership the opportunity to see that progress is being made, generate quick feedback, and allow the team to make adjustments as needed.
  • Demonstrate how things fit together up-front, as it is easier to make changes earlier rather than later.
  • Confirm that the requirements for the sprint are being achieved by demonstrating configurations and seeing those items early.
  • Get universal buy-in for the functionality, as well as confirm any changes requested.

This methodology allows for continually building capabilities.  New capabilities can be added on an ongoing basis, as debt types, clients, and integrations are added.  This allows the client to utilize the items rolled out early in the project across every release, allowing for quick and ongoing success.

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