Changing back-office suppliers is not a simple task. Differences in database schemas, platforms, user interfaces and external links can present a number of challenges. I hope this article will help you address some of these issues and smooth the transition if you decide to make the move.
Manage the data transition
Unfortunately, there is no standard for back-office databases, although there are some common areas between suppliers.
What data are you able to extract from the old system, in what format and what tools or services are available to input that data into the new system?
Do not forget your documents too, as these are often stored separately from the database.
In a perfect world, something akin to platform re-registration would be available to move clients transparently from one system to another.
In practice, you should expect a data loss, only transferring a subset of your core data and picking up the difference at subsequent client reviews.
It is not unusual to retain a small number of licences on the old system after the move to access data that could not be brought over while the new system catches up. Dovetailing the transition will reduce your risk substantially.
Choose your platform
Systems are either offered online as a website where the supplier hosts the database and application or offline where you provide the hosting.
Each option presents different problems. Offline systems require you to put in place your own servers and system support, which is fine if you have existing IT support but more difficult if you are a smaller firm with limited technology experience.
Online systems include the hosting and systems support but you have less control over your data.
A third alternative is the hosted desktop where your entire desktop is moved online for all of your applications. It ticks more boxes and is much easier to manage for bigger organisations but tends to cost more.
Train your users
You will need to factor in the time and cost of retraining staff to use the new system, including the opportunity costs of taking them off the job. This may be exacerbated if your users are spread out geographically. Suppliers typically offer training courses at a centralised location. For bigger firms, train-the trainer may be more economical and effective.
Ensure you have the integrations you need
Different systems support different links to research tools, providers, portals, valuation and e-business services. Check the new system has the ones you need as there is quite a range in the services supported by the systems on offer.
Put effective user support in place
Check who will provide first-line support. If your old supplier did and the new one does not, you will need to factor in staff costs to support users. Do not assume your IT staff will be suitable, they may understand the technology in detail but not necessarily the advice process and that is often the type of enquiry you will get.
Assess the full lifecycle costs of the new system
Finally, remember to factor in all the costs of the move. These include the old system exit costs, transition costs, new system running costs, and do not forget the new system exit costs too, as you may want to move again at some point.