The Ledger 'Tech Talks': Simplifying System Migrations, with Elliot Avison - CEO, Dancerace

 

Migrating to new lending software is a daunting task for any lender, because getting it wrong can cause busniess-critical problems. Happily, we've handled dozens of complicated system migrations to our own software, and know what works and what doesn't.

In our latest podcast, we sat down with Dancerace CEO Elliot Avison to find out what banks and lenders should consider before they kick off their next migration project. This bitesize interview is the first in our special 'Tech Talks' series focused on lending software.

To listen to the podcast, click here, or read the transcript below.

 


 

Callum Dunbar, Dancerace: Elliot, thank you for joining me for the first of our ‘Tech Talk’ series on lending technology. 

The first thing that we're going to talk about today is system migrations. What types of system migration have you handled in the past, and for what types of lender?

Elliot Avison, Dancerace: Hi, Callum. Great. It's good question. So, we've handled anything from very, very large lenders, all the way to small. The types of migrations that you can perform are either the ‘big bang’ approach, where you take an entire company's history, all the way back to when they first started on that platform, to an open item migration, where you would close off at the end of a week or end of the month, and then on Monday morning of the following week, you start working on your new platform.

So, we’ve handled a very wide array of migrations, and we do them pretty regularly.

CD: What are the keys to a successful migration?

EA: Well, there are probably five key things. 

First, making sure you have enough resources. 

Understanding the systems that you're moving from and to. 

Having access to your data, and understanding the data in your platform.

Good project management doesn't hurt, and then having a really clear strategy. 

Strategy is the probably the most important thing, because if you start with a strategy, everything else should fall into place. There are, of course, loads of different things to consider about the strategy. But I would say those are the key things to consider for success.

CD: We're going to come back in a little to those key considerations for lenders. What would you say that lenders biggest challenges when managing their migration.

EA: Well, it depends who you ask on this. I think, from our perspective, it seems that lenders mostly struggle with managing the day job as well as doing all the activities that need to take place while you're trying to go through a migration, in terms of preparation. Because, frankly, you're spending months preparing for this thing, and then it happens. All of that work that leads up to that migration is essential. And you have to be able to look after your business at the same time. 

From a more holistic perspective, I think it really is about getting that strategy right and ensuring you have the right people and the right approach. If you get that wrong, then a lot of the things fall apart. The keys to success are also the keys to the biggest challenge, if you get the strategy wrong from the get-go.  

Those would be my two biggest challenges. There are obviously more. If you don't have access to the data, that is quite a big problem. And if you don't have enough people or skilled individuals on both the software vendor and the internal teams’ side, then it's going to be almost impossible, but we're making an assumption that those things are in place. 

CD: And what would you say makes a good migration partner, in terms of the software provider or the consultant supporting the migration?

EA: I think flexibility is the most important thing there. Every system is going to be different, every lender's going to have different requirements. And having a vendor who listens and is able to adapt their approach to suit your business needs is essential. That seems to be the most important thing and – slightly tooting our own horn – that’s the approach we take. And we have done a lot of successful migrations. 

The other thing is making sure that there's really good communication about challenges, and not always sugar-coating things. That's really key as well, because these things will go wrong, but they will be fixed and you have to maintain a good relationship to do that. 

CD: Brilliant. So, flexibility and communication. Now, the final question I'm going to ask you that goes back to the first one: what should banks lenders consider when planning their migration? 

EA: First, really understanding whether or not you want to go for a big bang or a phased approach and what type of migration; that really is the most important thing. 

If it's essential that you bring historical data with you, that should override a lot of the decision-making that you do from there onwards. 

The other thing is to really make sure that you understand how you will get access to your information. This is the most key part of your strategy. But if you don't have access to your data, or you have no plan to get access to your data, or, or any access to that data, because it's held on an external system, or platform that is unreadable or one you don't have access to, then things will quickly fall apart. 

So those would be the main things. Then there’s building your team. Don't throw everything at technical resource; think about the people that will facilitate and write documentation and guide the process.

Finally, don't forget your customers. Don't forget that at the end of this, once data has been moved from one place to another, there is a system at the end of it and your customers need training and support. 

CD: What I'm really hearing from you is that the migration is just the lift and shift moment, but actually there's a whole load of considerations and a long pathway to get to that point. And then you need to think beyond that point as well.

EA: Absolutely. Most of these projects start off with a real focus on the moving of information, and there is a lot more to consider. 

But I don't think this should be daunting. I think migration is actually something that is easier than ever to do, simply because technology has moved forward. And I think the systems underlying it are a lot more adaptable than they've been. And everyone's moving towards easier-to-use applications. I think all of the barriers that were once there are slowly falling away.

CD: We’ll end on that positive note, thanks very much for your time!

Edited for clarity.