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Beyond the code: Transformation learnings from legacy to leading edge

Blog, Blog 12/12/2023

This year GBST celebrates 40 years of innovation and Michael Pugh, GBST’s Executive Manager for its Composer Wealth Management Administration platform, draws on inspiration from Composer's transformative journey and the valuable lessons learned from the "E-VOLVE" project he headed up.

Top 10 principles that guided Composer’s tech transformation. 

Transformation is hard. Anyone who has been involved in a technology transformation project will have a large collection of war stories from it and very few successful ones. It requires a combination of strategic planning, leadership buy-in, and user-centric approaches. Personalised support, adaptability in implementation, collaboration, cultural integration, and iterative refinement based on user feedback is paramount. 

This year, GBST celebrates 40 years of innovation. Michael Pugh, GBST’s Executive Manager for its Composer Wealth Management Administration platform, draws on inspiration from Composer’s transformative journey and the valuable lessons he learned from the “E-VOLVE” project he headed up.  

Reflecting on years of investment and millions of dollars to replace a legacy technology stack with a SaaS-ready, digital-first platform, Michael delves into the top 10 principles that guided Composer’s transformation. 

1 Strategic vision and leadership buy-in is crucial.

It’s of utmost importance to understand the driving forces behind a transformation. In Composer’s case, the need arose to move off the Power Builder application. After designing the new platform (using microservices-based architecture, domain-based APIs, a React front-end, and containerised deployment methods), significant benefits were identified for both GBST and our clients, which led us to continue down this path.

“Leadership support should cascade from the top down to the operational levels”, says Pugh. Ensuring leaders are not only on board but fully committed to the vision and strategy driving the transformation is vital. This commitment equally applies to both the vendor, and the client implementing the transformation.

Aligning strategic vision, transformation goals and market trends with client needs is “simply a must do” to stay relevant and competitive.

2 Whole of business transformation, not just technology

Technology transformation is a business-wide effort and not a siloed journey. Everybody involved or impacted needs to acknowledge that it’s not merely a technological shift but a comprehensive business transformation. “At GBST we’ve learnt to cultivate a culture where the entire organisation is involved and invested in the change process”, notes Pugh.

3 Phased implementation over big bang

“Always avoid a big bang approach”, says Pugh. Instead, implement changes in manageable phases. Use the concept of ‘user groups’ and ‘change champions’ to incrementally introduce the new technology gradually. “That way, it gives groups of people time to get used to shiny new things.”

4 Tailor communication for stakeholders

Recognise individual stakeholders and regularly seek feedback on communication effectiveness, then adjust strategies accordingly.

Communication is crucial on the client side, but equally as important internally. “I know that my CEO wants high level information up-front and early on about progress and outcomes achieved, whereas my CTO wants more detail and to work out issues collaboratively.”

5 Clear success metrics

Establish both hard and soft metrics to measure transformation success. Hard metrics include financial targets, scope achievement, and meeting rollout schedules. Soft metrics involve user engagement, user feedback, system utilisation, and identification of areas for improvement. “Both the vendor and clients should have clear sets of success metrics regularly reviewed and held accountable by teams.”

6 Client-centric approach

It’s vital to share business cases and transformation plans with clients. Align transformation goals, alongside client expectations, incorporating their specific measures of success. “Be prepared to change and negotiate where it makes sense, and keep in mind that two parties heading towards a common set of goals is the ideal state.”

It’s important to allow users to have as much or as little involvement as they desire. Some just want the end product, others want to be involved in the journey. You can facilitate early familiarisation through tools like sandboxes, to ensure users are comfortable with the changes.

Actively seek feedback and integrate it into the development cycle. Use this input to refine and enhance features, ensuring the technology aligns closely with user needs and expectations.

7 Continuous transformation

Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement and transformation. With Composer, we release new functionality regularly, aiming for smaller, more frequent updates. This is a key reason we moved towards an agile model – to decrease the time between client requests and the deployment of updates.

Frequent updates mean more functionality for our client base on a more regular basis. This enables product growth, and ensures our clients continually benefit from up-to-date technology based on the current market needs and trends.

8 Effective risk management

Keep it simple: identify, document, and mitigate risks. Assign an accountable owner for each risk, ensure there’s someone responsible for driving the outcome. Make sure that person is known across project teams or business areas to drive ownership and minimise inefficiencies.

9 Flexibility in implementation

Recognise there will be different implementation requirements in each market. Flexibility in deployment methods, such as ‘co-existence’ or ‘side-by-side’ applications running, was key to accommodating diverse user needs in the Composer transformation. New Composer user interface screens ran alongside the old ones for a defined period before we decommissioned anything.

10 Measuring cultural adoption

Finally, the last point but one of the most important, is that “transformation is not a set and forget activity”. You need to go beyond technical metrics and assess cultural adoption within the organisation. It’s important to gauge how well employees embrace and incorporate the technological changes into their daily workflows to drive successful outcomes.

If you’d like to know more about our award-winning wealth management administration platform, Composer, get in touch.  

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