Data Conversions and System Implementations
Investment system conversions require far more than converting existing data. The new system will inevitably have many new features and data elements, which are likely a big reason for the upgrade. Consequently old data needs to be cleaned up and augmented with new data elements.
A new system also presents opportunities for process re-engineering. Process changes require staff members to understand and be trained on new workflows and procedures. But they present the opportunity to create an organization that functions more smoothly in service to common goals. From this perspective, you can see why data and systems conversions entail more than merely migrating legacy data to a new system.
Business teams often want their new systems to integrate with many new data sources and systems. These interfaces are not one-time occurrences of cleaning up and augmenting existing data. Rather, they’re ongoing processes, especially as new vendors are added. Each interface is a little like a mini conversion of its own, often comprising a series of time- and resource-consuming projects.
An example of tasks to perform in an investment system conversion might look like this:
- Project planning
- Technical environment preparation
- Functional testing
- Data conversion
- Data cleanup
- Client specific function development and testing
- Reconciliation and financial impact analysis
- External interfaces
- Reports development, testing and user sign-off
- Parallel input to old and new systems (and catch-up)
- Creation of daily, weekly and monthly production job streams
- Issue tracking
- Production cutover planning
- Workaround documentation
- Workflows and procedures documentation
- Ongoing database administration and user environment preparation
- New release testing and implementation
Organizations frequently underestimate the effort and resources necessary to successfully complete an integration project. Connecting the moving parts with reasonable timelines, resources, and dependencies helps ensure success. Since most organizations do a project like this infrequently, they need to focus staff members on maintaining the ongoing system, as opposed to distracting them with one-time events that probably won’t be repeated in their careers.
When institutional investors merge, data has to be urgently consolidated from one investment accounting system onto another. The consolidation process has many of the same characteristics as the implementation of a new system, with some important differences:
- The timeframe is usually shortened to three to six months, often dictated by management goals that cannot be changed.
- There is not as much emphasis on new processes and reports, since the processes of the surviving system simply need to be implemented with the new data from the new organization.
- Automated reconciliation is urgently needed, but there isn’t much time — and existing reconciliation systems aren’t easily adaptable.
- Data quality is a huge concern, and there isn’t much time to get it right.
- The most experienced in-house people are required to spend very large amounts of time on this one-time event of consolidation, while the same people are also required for other merger-related integration projects that may be just as urgent.
- Other integration projects associated with the merger require in-house people to maintain reports and interfaces for months and years, while the consolidation is a one-time event with no ongoing maintenance. As a result, the conversion is an ideal project to outsource — to a firm with substantial expertise in this area.
- The systems being consolidated are often vendor systems with significant peculiarities, and having expertise in both systems is extremely helpful.
Operational Health Checks
How healthy are your investment operations? Have you been largely doing things the same way for years, with the same workarounds, without a periodic review of your operational processes? ICC has worked with dozens of institutional investors over the years, with all the commonly used systems and service providers in the marketplace, and can quickly perform an analysis of your business processes for and with you, resulting in recommendations to help you be more efficient with your existing infrastructure (or, in more severe cases, a suggestion to re-evaluate applications you are currently using). The ICC Health Check easily pays for itself with efficiencies gained.
Data Quality Health Checks
Perhaps you are tangentially aware that your data quality isn’t perfect, but you’ve never really determined how good or bad it is. ICC can quickly perform a data quality analysis for and with you, resulting in a much better understanding both of your current data quality and suggestions for process improvements where applicable.
Upgrading to a new release of investment management software can be a substantial undertaking. Testing alone requires a major effort to ensure functions that worked before still work now — and new functions perform as desired. Reports and interfaces also need to be tested to ensure critical daily functions still work as desired.
We use a variety of techniques and tools to help with upgrades and testing, including a test-case database we leave with the client to use for future upgrades. Our methodology comprises a structured approach to testing new releases, often covering a wider range of functional testing than a client might employ with a less rigorous approach.
The critical element here is people — the right people with the right knowledge of investments and systems. Since these people are often in short supply, and other projects demand their attention, the organization may not have enough people to perform adequate testing. In such cases, we can help get software upgrades implemented, which might otherwise fall off the priority list.
If you have a regulatory release that must be implemented by a particular date, but you don’t have adequate in-house resources — or if you require more comprehensive software testing — we can help.
Struggling to hire qualified people? ICC can help! not with the hiring, per se, but in the type of people you hire. Rather than spend months searching for someone with the perfect experience, perhaps you would be better off hiring the right type of personality to fit into your organization, and then have ICC train them on the intricacies of investment accounting, data, processing, reporting, etc.
Not only will you likely have someone useful to your team faster, but you will also get the benefit of training from a firm who has been exposed to the way many other firms handle similar responsibilities, which could lead to improvements in your own processes as a side benefit. We can also provide business process reviews on an ongoing basis, of course.
To find out more about the ways in which we can help, please call us at 603-912-5406 or complete the form below.