Transitioning Operations Functions in a COVID World

Sarah Simmonds

With fee pressures and increasing regulatory demands, Asset Managers and Owners are regularly reviewing their third-party service providers to ensure value for money to clients and for themselves.

Under current working conditions, there may be reluctance to act on outcomes of these supplier assessments and undertake a transition, however, from our experience in the last nine months, the transactional nature of remote working has resulted in very efficient implementation programmes.

To set up programmes to be as efficient and successful as possible, there are however additional considerations around a few topics. These include:

  • Robust technology, infrastructure and security, which mitigates against key-person risk and fulfils the need to have a contingency plan
  • Sustained motivation within the team for prolonged amount of time, without the need of excessive meetings
  • A succinct audit trail of decisions and documentation, which all parties agree to

Technology and security are often at the forefront of minds where client data is being transferred, so what changes in a COVID world?

A remote working environment brings new challenges when dependent on home set-ups and infrastructure. Data back-ups on hard drives, transported between third parties is no longer satisfactory for security considerations, as this would have to be done between home addresses in a COVID environment. Instead, web-based solutions should be used, with the security of these solutions reviewed extensively. Additionally, more than one employee should have access to the data, understand the nuances in data migration and be involved in test cycles throughout the transition in order to mitigate key man risk if home infrastructure does not act as expected during test or go-live weekends.

Does working remotely with three parties, or more, on long transition programmes mean the team will be in meetings all day?

In replacement of the ‘over the desk’ chat, it has become commonplace to organise a meeting instead, and before you know it, your day is 30 minute meetings back-to-back, with no time away from your screen to grab lunch or to take a comfort break! This is even more pronounced on third party transitions, where agreement must be reached between all three parties, and sometimes even more.

Encourage the use of collaboration tools, such as MS Teams or Slack, as an alternative to always organising a VC or a call. If a meeting is required, ensure the agenda and meeting purpose are clearly defined upfront, keep attendees to a minimum by sending out decisions and actions to a wider interested stakeholder base, and encourage meetings to be a maximum 25 or 45 mins, allowing time to make calls or have a cup of tea between meetings. We’re also a big fan of the walk and talk meeting, especially with the decreasing daylight.

The key characteristics of a workshop can still be simulated in a remote setting, by levering screensharing or whiteboarding technologies

Gone are the days of workshops of 20 people across three parties, locked in a room to whiteboard ideas. Now, a successful workshop in a remote working environment is dependent on early sight of the documentation that is to be discussed, allowing full review prior to the workshop. Successful workshops then facilitate the answering of questions, or challenges, rather than completing a line-by-line review of the documentation.

Don’t underestimate the need to continually motivate the team on long transitions

On long projects, typical of transition programmes, team morale should always be kept in mind. This applies even more so in an environment where face-to-face interactions are now minimised and team members struggling with motivation or capacity may easily go under the radar. Programmes of this scale should ensure there is time set aside to communicate progress, the ‘wins’ and to say thank you.

The Migration Weekend

Come migration weekend, documentation and technology back-ups are key to have in place and to have been tested in previous test weekends/ cycles. However, additional protocols should be put in place, including buddy systems to mitigate for key-person risk, open calls throughout the weekend within parties, and regular check-in calls between all three parties scheduled throughout the weekend. This will support the early identification and escalation of issues or delays.

Additionally, run books should be cognisant of the potential longer time it takes to do certain activities from home, independently, and so parties should plan for any ‘nice-to-have’ tasks that can be completed pre or post transition, rather than over the go-live weekend.




There should be no fear of embarking on a remote or partially remote transition programme. With the correct preparation and clear lines of communication, these can be as successful as programmes operating with the majority of team members working face-to-face every day.

Alpha has unparalleled experience managing global middle and back office transitions and are successfully running several large-scale global transition programmes remotely at present. We would be delighted to share further perspectives on this topic – to get in touch, please reach out to Sarah Simmonds for further information.

About the Author

Sarah Simmonds
Senior Manager

Sarah is a Senior Manager at Alpha leading work across Alpha’s Operations practice. She has extensive experience leading numerous Operations Transformation projects, both in a complete remote working environment and outside of such. Her experience means she has a deep understanding of key risks and best practices in delivering large Operations transformations in both environments. Within Alpha, in addition to her Operations responsibilities, Sarah is also part of the M&A practice.