No technology lasts forever. New systems, new hardware and new techniques are constantly being developed to improve uptime, increase efficiency and control costs. Just about every four or five years (if not earlier) technology becomes unsupported and out of date, or no longer meets the needs of the institution. These changes push just about every institution to perform an upgrade to overhaul or improve its network systems. And while few technology upgrades are ever simple, a little preparation goes a long way to ensuring success.
Whether you’re considering a systems upgrade now or sometime down the road, here are five dos and don’ts that will help ensure success.
DO: Evaluate different models and consider how each will affect your strategic plan, risk assessment and your capital expenses (how the technology will be depreciated on your financial statements).
Don’t: Don’t assume that in-house is the only option
Take the time to understand the business problems and the options to solve them through new technology. Assess the risks involved with any system upgrade, as well as the risk involved with staying with the status quo. It’s also important to consider how each potential solution will affect your books and the three- to five-year total cost of ownership.
Before you even begin to start looking at products to meet your financial institution’s needs, consider the capital expenditure versus the operating expenditure and perform a risk assessment. Evaluate whether it makes sense to deploy new technology in-house or if there is a vendor suited to meet your needs. Ask the tough questions up front, such as:
- Can I get comfortable with my data outside of my institution’s four walls?
- Just because my data is within my institution’s four walls, does that make it more secure than if it’s hosted by a provider who does this for a living?
- What are the single points of failure and what happens if they break?
Provided that you have done your due diligence and found the qualified providers and solutions (e.g. they have the right certifications and meet your institution’s vendor management requirements), they should have substantial security procedures and documentation in place. With the right amount of due diligence, you will find vendors who treat your data with the same care you’d treat it yourself, if not better.
DO: Take the time to evaluate products
Don’t: Don’t buy on brand name alone
Every institution is different, and you need to make sure that the solutions you choose match what you need. There is no single best solution to meet every institution’s needs.
Technology has evolved to a point where each product brings with it a unique array of strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, each institution configures its technology to meet its own specific needs – what fits your bank might not work for a similarly-sized institution on the other end of town. For instance, an institution in Atlanta, a city known for its strong Internet infrastructure might not need a replication product to limit bandwidth as much as a rural community bank. Technology solutions are situational, and depend highly on your institution’s specific goals.
DO: Do the reading before you start
Don’t: Don’t wing it
Make sure to have an implementation plan and understand the technology you’re deploying. Once you’ve identified your needs and the right technology to address them, don’t assume the installation is going to be a breeze. Make sure you know the plan before you begin implementing it. If you wing it through new installations, at some point something is bound to go wrong. It’s not a matter of if, but when, and how big of an impact that it creates.
DO: Develop a contingency plan
Don’t: Don’t pull an all-nighter
The implementation plan is in place. You’ve read the literature and are ready to begin the process of installing new systems. But what if something goes wrong? Before you start any project, be sure to create a contingency plan for the unexpected.
If for some reason your installation fails, keep yourself in a position where you are able to switch back to the old technology in order to keep the business running. Sometimes roadblocks are unavoidable when upgrading technology. If you reach a point where you can no longer move forward on your own, make sure you can at least go back to where you were at the beginning of the project. With today’s technology, you should never be in a position where you can’t get back to where you started fairly easily. Taking the time on the front end to plan for the worst case can help avoid a bad situation.
DO: Plan you pre- during- and post install communication
Don’t: Don’t assume your end-users will be flexible or understanding
Those who work with network systems everyday often have a bad habit of assuming all of their users are able to follow along with any changes to technology. Ultimately, the installation of new technology means things will be different for your institution’s users – no matter how much it might make the institution more efficient. Clear communications throughout the process of a systems upgrade will make it easier for everyone in the institution to understand how things are changing and what to expect from new technology. Don’t assume end-users know as much as you. Help them through the process by communicating changes and providing the materials to help your users learn new technology.
At Safe Systems we have helped hundreds of institutions through the upgrade process. We work exclusively with banks and credit unions. Our unique understanding of network systems, technology, security, compliance and cloud computing – and how all of it ties to a financial institution – helps us work to guide you through these often difficult decisions. We are available as a resource in the planning stages, a partner in implementation and can provide ongoing network monitoring and support to make sure your new technology is an investment well spent.