We have all heard the story about the soon-to-retire insurance CIO proclaim, “There will be no conversions on my watch!”, when asked about the possibility of updating the company’s policy administration system to a more modern platform. The CIO’s defensive posture was based on the knowledge that data conversion is the most difficult part of any modernization initiative.
Our hypothetical CIO may have gotten out before legacy replacement was forced by the need to gain greater product speed-to-market, reduce maintenance costs, increase agent ease-of-doing-business or deliver a unified customer experience of a standard driven by consumers’ experiences with online retailers and other more technologically aggressive industries. With the passage of time, these imperatives have only grown more urgent, and the people who maintain systems built on older technology are retiring in greater numbers.
The maturity of newer software packages adds probably the most compelling reason to modernize core insurance systems. However, whatever problems new core system software solves, the pain of data conversion isn’t one of them. Data conversion will always be a complex and challenging task, but newer tools and approaches have gone a long way to mitigating its risks and costs. Here are eight important considerations that can help CIOs reduce the difficulty and risk of data conversion and face the task with more confidence and less anxiety:
- the condition of the data and the plan for correcting invalid data;
- the identification of financial data that must be balanced in the target system and how to audit the values;
- the need to build the conversion team with members who have done conversion previously (internal, external or blended);
- the necessity of having proven software tools that take much of the guesswork out of the project and shorten the time frame with reusable components from previous conversions;
- the requirement for a detailed project plan including all critical path items;
- the creation of a thorough test plan with specified results expected;
- the importance of applying highly skilled SMEs throughout the project; and
- the understanding that data conversions should be considered a business project rather than an IT project.
It is important to remember that when it comes to a successful data conversion project, the devil is in the details. With strong planning, an experienced team and a set of proven software tools and methodology, the devilish details can be addressed proactively, making for a smoother conversion with more accurate, cost-effective and timely results.