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  • Writer's pictureTori Vancura-Rutland

Five Steps to Successfully Implementing New Projects

Guest Editorial by Tori Vancura-Rutland, Chief Growth Officer, HC3

Change can be frightening. Even in the best of circumstances, a major change tends to bring resistance as people default to what is comfortable and known. New initiatives around technology implementations need a clear plan to address the fear of change. Greater success is gained from everyone sharing the same definition of complete with a plan to meet that. Suddenly, embracing such a shift becomes tangible.

There are five key steps credit union leaders can take to make any major process implementation successful. Start with sharing the “why” behind the change with team members. From here, credit unions can establish the end vision. Next, they will start the implementation, move into testing and build a go-live plan. By making sure each of these steps is included, credit unions can ensure that the transition will run as smoothly as possible.

Share the Why

The worst thing any organization can do when taking on a significant change is to not communicate clearly to staff and end users why the change is necessary. By beginning with the “why,” leaders can get buy-in from all the stakeholders. This acceptance is critical to keeping everyone motivated when challenges arise. It will also ensure buy-in when incorporating the new processes into the daily workflow. Starting with the “why,” also helps the credit union have a clear and accepted definition of what the completed project looks like.

When discussing the “why,” there are a few key questions that must be answered:

  • What will change?

  • Why will it change?

  • What is the benefit to the organization? Staff? Members?

  • Who will handle the new process?

  • How will the workflow change?

  • What does a complete project look like?

By preparing for these questions, leadership can also determine if they are ready for the change. In this process, they often find that taking on the entire change at once may not be the best option. Instead, a large project may be needed to roll out in phases.

Establish the End Vision

The next step is to cast the vision of what the final change looks like. This step is a joint venture between the credit union and any vendors or partners they use to establish the change. The vendor needs to be able to demonstrate what a successful implementation looks like. At the same time, the credit union needs to be able to visualize what the new process entails.

At this stage in the change, all stakeholders must have a voice. For instance, when a credit union is looking for a new partner for outsourcing its member statements, several departments will need to have input. Leaders from operations, member service, IT, and compliance all need to be involved in making sure the new workflow will be successful.

This is also the stage that the credit union needs to begin working on any needed data transfer issues. They will need to determine the necessary data and where it will come from. In the case of outsourced statements, the credit union will need to import account and transaction data. This is also the time to determine if there are fees or access limitations to the needed data. Many times the credit union may not be aware that they do not have full access to their data. Leaders will need to contact their core provider to check their options and determine if there are fees associated with data access. This information will help determine any ongoing maintenance costs and timelines.

Essentially, this phase takes the time to establish the whole picture of the new process and lay the foundation for the implementation.

Start the Implementation

Once the foundation is set, it is time to build the implementation. This is the phase where the most change occurs. As the credit union receives its data, and the vendor begins implementing the new technology, there will be a series of composition and feedback cycles.

These cycles are critical for proofing and approving each new change. The feedback will ensure that the implementation stays on brand, that the data is valid and matched, and that the new procedures are documented. Proof approval must have all stakeholders in the room. For example, a common mistake is bringing in compliance too late in the process and then needing to rework aspects of the project.

As the implementation continues, this is also the time to document all the process changes that need to occur. This record will be valuable for training, ongoing support, and working with the vendor on any issues that arise post-implementation.

Test and Document

Everything must be tested. The testing phase is a crucial element of the implementation process. One of the biggest mistakes credit unions make is trying to test when the build phase is still underway. This makes it difficult to truly evaluate the new workflow with all the changes that will be live.

All too often, delays and looming deadlines create a temptation to forego testing to meet the go-live date. This step in the process must not be ignored. Checking that all the data points for each cycle are present is one thing that should be reviewed at this time. Certain items could be overlooked if all data is not validated during proofing cycles. This oversight would cause a delay in the go-live date.

Following the comprehensive tests, credit unions must document what changes are needed. Then once the change is made, they need to run the tests again with those new changes in place. Repeat this cycle until everything is complete.

Prepare to Go Live

The final step to implementing a new project is to work with the vendor to create a documented Day One plan for rolling out the changes. Each person involved in the go-live should have a checklist to follow. Items that might be included are record count verification, data check in the proof, print quality review, insertion review, and mail acceptance count.

Day one requires a lot of monitoring to make sure that the new system and process are working the way they did in testing. During this time, it is important for the credit union and the project team to stay in contact on how the new implementation is performing. The vendor will also begin to transition to the ongoing support manager as the implementation team wraps

Finally, make sure the plan includes how the credit union will communicate the change to its members. Let them know what is changing and when it is coming. If undergoing a statement change, the credit union will need to share a sample of both the new print and electronic documents. This will help members know that the documents are legitimate. At this stage, it’s also important that the member support team prepare for a higher volume of calls to answer questions.

Change is a necessary and common element of running a credit union. With a focused plan that involves all stakeholders, credit union leaders can implement new processes more efficiently and maximize their investment in the changes.

Tori Vancura-Rutland is Chief Growth Officer for Birmingham, Ala.-based HC3. By outsourcing bank statements with HC3, financial institutions leverage document design, digital delivery, and print delivery. Through these solutions, banks and credit unions can make a statement that reflects their brand. For more information, visit


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