Delivering a Successful Platform Transformation Programme

Alec Baillie, Duncan Ng’enda, Jenny Thorpe


This is the second in our series of articles in which we examine the key steps firms should take to run a successful platform transformation programme, with a specific focus on effective delivery and collaboration whilst remote working.

COVID-19 has added a new dimension to successful programme delivery. Previously, programmes relied heavily on teams that were able to co-locate in a single physical office space, or at worst, co-locate across two sites. Most personnel are now based at home with limited physical contact. We have incorporated lessons learnt from our work with clients on these programmes throughout the lockdowns. In our view, most of the lessons arising from COVID-19 will remain relevant after the pandemic.

Focus on core requirements

Platform transformation programmes can provide the opportunity to deliver new customer propositions as well as the core migration of clients onto new technology. However, as highlighted in our previous article, the focus should be on successfully delivering a simple Day One proposition and then leveraging the new capability to provide more advanced offerings for your customer.

Firms must undertake a detailed assessment of the features of the existing book and make a comparison against the new platform to determine gaps. Ideally, this should have already been done in sufficient depth at the procurement stage.

Gaps identified should be critically analysed to identify what must be built and what can be done in the next phase. For example, some gaps must be addressed because they create a regulatory issue, detriment the customer/advisor or create attrition issues. Additionally, some gaps should be ignored as they perpetuate out-of-date features or operational complexity.

Once completed, design and change authorities need to approve any scope changes and monitor instances of scope creep which, over time, add up.

Get BAU ready

The business should be ready from the start for transformation. Detailed operational Management Information (MI) is needed to monitor the health of the existing operation and flag areas requiring remediation.

Remedial activities and housekeeping such as clearing operational backlogs, chasing ‘gone aways’, clearing outstanding AML incidents, and resolving complaints should be incorporated into the overall programme plan and treated with the same importance as the core programme activities.

Source system data should be reviewed and cleansed to try and increase alignment between the source and target systems. This may require altering current processes to align with the target state. Operational tasks should also be identified that can be discontinued as systems go into ‘care and maintenance’ mode.

It is also never too early to consider the assortment of contractual and legal tasks required. Procurement should be integrated into the programme early and be ready to lead on contractual discussions and negotiations.

Clear MI, milestones and objectives

Anyone who has been part of a large-scale transformation programme will be familiar with the associated flurry of status update packs and daily stand-ups. These often fail to provide useful and actionable MI or give a clear real-time understanding of progress and velocity to milestones. Given the cost and length of these programmes, it is wise to invest time and effort into the design of MI. This should be automated, universal and consistent, reflecting the actual programme status with no bias to provide a more favourable narrative. This can delay identification of potential issues that later harm the programme and business.

In a COVID-19 remote working world, it is paramount the MI is accessible and available in real-time. Colleagues in the wider business should be regularly informed by business sponsors of progress against key milestones. Delivering updates at town halls help the wider business to understand progress and the importance of upcoming critical path activities.

Agile decision making

The method by which decisions are made is even more critical in the COVID-19 remote working era. The frameworks underpinning decision making should be transparent to all involved as well as the wider business.

In our last article, we referenced the need for a strong design and change authority in the context of protecting the delivery plan and scope for Day One. The terms of reference for these forums should be accessible to all programme staff. Everyone should have an understanding of when to consult these forums and the appropriate procedures to raise an item for consideration. Similarly, decisions made should be communicated to the programme and appropriate actions taken swiftly.

Effective partner management

Effective partner management (existing and new) is critical to the success of the programme.

In the early stages of planning, secrecy is critical. This is to guard against the risk of the existing platform partner inadvertently finding out about the impending loss of business. Once the programme has begun, the existing partner will need to be actively managed and incentives appropriately aligned to ensure goodwill and make the programme a success. Communications should be clear and restricted to certain individuals. Goodwill can go a long way in these circumstances given the intense demands on programme resources. Contractual enforcement should be a last resort.

The scope and plan for delivery should be jointly agreed with the partner to suitably de-risk the delivery plan. The new platform partner should also have a ringfenced team who are specifically dedicated to the re-platforming at hand. Notwithstanding these assurances, potential partner shortcomings should be anticipated, planned for and appropriately managed as a delivery risk.


What next?

Stay tuned for the final article of our series which covers how to successfully undertake the platform migration event itself. If you would like to discuss the issues and recommendations in this series, then please reach out as we would love to hear from you.

About the Authors

Alec Baillie

Alec is a Consultant at Alpha in the Pensions & Retail Investment practice. He has worked on a variety of large-scale transformation, regulatory and operating model design and implementation projects for clients across the Asset & Wealth Management and Insurance sectors. Recently, Alec has been supporting Retail Investment clients with a specific focus on platform implementation programmes and delivering change initiatives for the D2C customer segment.

Duncan Ng’enda
Senior Manager

Duncan is a Senior Manager at Alpha with over 7 years' experience, spanning across the Retail & Investment Banking, Wealth & Asset Management and Insurance sectors. Duncan's specialism is driving business and technology transformations to deliver specific business outcomes within budget and on time. Most recently, he has led several technology re-platform programmes, operating model optimisation, M&A transactions and integration programmes for a number of large enterprises in the Retail Investments industry.

Jenny Thorpe
Associate Director

Jenny is an Associate Director and platforms expert in Alpha’s Pensions and Retail Investments practice, with over 18 years’ experience in the sector. Jenny's experience has been developed in roles within direct and intermediated platforms and spans corporate strategy, complex change delivery, post-acquisition integrations, new platform launches, operational management and business & technical architecture. Since joining Alpha, Jenny has been advising clients on strategic acquisitions and transformational change.