Informed and engaged

September 24, 2015
in Achievements

How communication played a key role in a successful banking system conversion

Following the recent conversion from the Acumen to the Wealthview Banking system across its Valley First branches, First West takes a look at what’s required to make a technology project of this magnitude and complexity successful. For the final instalment of this four part series we spoke with Communications Business Partner David Kropp.

First West has an extensive branch and support services network spread across several regional offices, how did you keep the team updated?
Every way we could: in-person and online meetings, intranet, conference calls, webinars… you name, we used it. The delivery channel was one factor, but consistency and frequency of messaging were critical, too. Every person has a slightly different communication preference so we knew we couldn’t rely on one single method. Above all, regardless of channel, our team members wanted to know when information was coming and where they could find it.

With such a long project, how did you keep your employees up to speed on what milestones had been reached and what challenges still lay ahead?
Our most important channels were our project intranet site, weekly manager calls and the 2-20 update. The 2-20 update evolved into an extremely valuable tool; this weekly snapshot provided key messages to be shared in two minutes as well as a discussion question designed for 20-minute team huddles – hence the 2-20 name. It was the perfect way to share project headlines but also really understand the ins-and-outs of the project.

Being informed is one thing. How did you help ensure employees stayed engaged? 
In a break from the usual, text-heavy approach, we built our communication plan around the idea that we were on a quest (Quest is name given internally to the banking system) and positioned the project as a journey from the old system to the new.

Every location received a Quest-themed map that charted the different project phases in a really interesting and fun way. Each new phase was launched with a letter from a famous movie character, like Gandalf and Indiana Jones, who offered up words of wisdom and outlined what employees could expect over the coming weeks. To create an even deeper connection, all teams also received a physical project artifact related to the project. For example, each team was given a compass along with their map when we launched to represent navigating the journey ahead.

By building a thoughtful communications plan we were able to add written, physical, graphic and interactive elements to every phase of the project. Our team members loved the different approach which took participation to a new level.

How did you communicate with your members?
Our most important channel to our members is face-to-face in our branches. There was a significant amount of employee education pre-conversion so they were all well-prepared to deal with member enquiries. All of our members also received a full-colour 10-page booklet in the mail with all the pertinent conversion information. In addition, we created a separate section on our internet site for conversion-related information.

Social media seems to be everywhere these days, did it play a significant role in this project? 
We didn’t use our social media feeds to push out information. We regularly monitor social media for member conversation and we upped that monitoring during conversion. Against all expectations, our social media contingency plan stayed on the shelf as we didn’t get a single negative comment regarding conversion. This is a real testament to how well the project was run and executed.

We’re there any hiccups along the way and what would you do differently next time around?
A few hiccups are inevitable in such a complex, dynamic project and it’s unrealistic to believe that you can foresee and plan for every possibility. Be ready with your plans but remain flexible and positive and surround yourself with the right people. Our communications team really understood the project, the people and what’s important to our members.

The project has been wrapped up for a few months now, have you also wrapped up the communications?

An important part of communication and change management is acknowledging a definite ending point so people can say “out with the old, in with the new.” Our communication plan echoed the change management plan so we did have a distinct end to project communications. The messaging was part celebration, part vision-casting, and part back-to-business. Really positive stuff that reinforced the tremendous amount of work everyone did to make the project a success.

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