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A premortem should be one of your top 5 tips for a successful FinTech implementation

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Posted in: gbst digital, Institutional Capital Markets, Wealth Management Administration
Published: 05/10/2021

Implementing new financial technology into your business can deliver immense benefits, with automation and straight-through processing generating cost savings and greater efficiency by eliminating duplication, reducing risk, and freeing up resources. In contrast, a poorly managed project can end up costing firms dearly, not just in monetary terms, but from a reputational perspective too.

Orla Fourie sets out her top tips for ensuring success with fintech implementations, based on over 20 years of industry experience in client delivery and implementations.

1. Know what success looks like

Before you start an implementation project, defining what success means and how it will be measured at the end of the project is crucial.

The most obvious gauge is whether a quality product is delivered on time and within budget. While specifying delivery timescales, budgets, and then reviewing them on an ongoing basis is important, it’s only part of a project’s success. You also need to measure the overall impact of the project and the long-term value it provides.

Clearly defining the project scope required to meet the business case from the outset and agreeing on priorities and outcomes across the business and with suppliers, consultants, and other stakeholders will help maximise the value returned.

2. Plan for failure

Projects continue to fail when financial organisations rush through the planning phase with the aim of completing an implementation faster, and simultaneously moving away from the legacy system more quickly. Contrarily, spending the time upfront to plan properly will almost certainly pay dividends in the long run, with less time lost rectifying problems and dealing with all the unknowns that were not identified upfront.

Giving careful consideration to the makeup of the delivery team is vital. An experienced team, with a deep understanding of the industry in general, and the business specifically, can make the difference between success and failure. The right people will provide insights and learnings from challenges and issues previously encountered and an awareness of what not to do, which is just as important to delivering a successful implementation as knowing what needs to be done.

Part of the planning process could be to perform a premortem to consider the possible failure of the project. The premortem method of risk assessment was developed by American psychologist Gary Klein, using research by the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and the University of Colorado. It found that using prospective hindsight where you imagine a future event has already happened can improve the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%(1).

It can feel uncomfortable at first to ask your team at the planning stage to imagine the implementation has failed and have them list all the possible reasons why this may have occurred. However, taking this alternate approach can identify potential problems before the transition to a new system commences. It provides an opportunity to highlight possible weaknesses in your strategy that may not be uncovered by a general risk assessment, while encouraging greater awareness of issues that may transpire during the project, helping detect and solve them at an earlier stage.

3. Aim for continuous improvement

Implementation is a discipline that can be improved over time. By taking an iterative approach, teams can identify key areas of value and split development into sequences of repeated cycles that focus on one area at a time. It is then possible to trial changes, test, and refine each development before feeding into the next cycle, systematically building and strengthening the technology with each iteration. Importantly, providing an ability to assess value to the business at each iteration to ensure progression to the next step is a priority, compared to other planned activities.

This type of project delivery encourages regular engagement with stakeholders, ensures issues are highlighted and resolved as early as possible in the process, and demonstrates continuous benefit is being delivered each step of the way.

4. Get the culture right

All implementations encounter challenges and unforeseen events and how these are managed has an enormous impact on the overall success of an implementation. Defining roles and responsibilities at the outset and establishing small, ring-fenced teams with appropriate levels of authority, resourcing, infrastructure, and backup support is key.

Successful implementations result from more than just the execution performed by the delivery team. Projects often stall due to a lack of visibility to those not directly involved in the project, which can create barriers to working effectively, while minimising access to systems and information. Taking a consultative and collaborative approach that includes people across the business from decision makers to end-users is vital. Agree on clear and regular reporting mechanisms, escalation procedures, and a governance model early in the project. Timely access to senior staff and individual business users’ involvement needs to be confirmed both at the earliest opportunity and throughout the project to ensure stakeholders feel engaged.

Creating an honest, open, and collaborative culture will mean that there are no surprises as the project progresses, and everyone involved will be focused on defusing any problems as they arise.

5. Get ready to go live

A decade ago, testing was completed at the end of an implementation, often creating unexpected issues late in the project lifecycle while the clock ticked on towards the launch date. By switching to an iterative approach, testing can be completed at each stage of development, with end-user involvement to identify and solve problems earlier in the process, ensuring that each aspect of the project is working as it should be when the time comes to launch.

If data is to be transferred between systems as part of the process, it’s important to establish dedicated transition and data cleansing teams to undertake ongoing data management leading up to the migration. An end-to-end delivery plan including dry runs and dress rehearsals with a go/no-go approach is essential.

By this stage in the process, following strong planning, team collaboration, and continuous improvement activities, the implementation should be ready to go live.

 

References

(1) https://hbr.org/2007/09/performing-a-project-premortem

 

Read the full article on Finextra.

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