All Posts By

Luciana Strong

Afraid to get a software update from your vendor?

More enterprises are embracing software as a service (SaaS), including banks. Financial institutions have become more amenable to cloud computing as it has been extensively used and validated as a safe and cost-efficient solution.  

One of the differences between having a piece of software installed within your bank’s network and using the SaaS model is that in most cases with the SaaS model you won’t get previews of changes 

Your vendors are going through change control processes and a substantial amount of validation and testing to ensure that you get the best experience possible after each updateBut you can still be part of quality control by setting up an internal process to review the new solution being delivered to you.  

These 5 steps should be part of your update validation process: 

  1. Be aware when new releases do come out 

Choose one or a few individuals to receive communications from vendors. With SaaS, the updates are usually more frequent than updates from your core systems. Some vendors have fixed release cycles, others update as changes are ready. Either way they will send communications, including pre-views, when applicable, so you want your team to be in the know.  

 

  1. Based on the release notes, assess areas of potential impact 

Once the key users are identified and registered with the vendor, have them assess the release notes for potential impacts to your operations. Do the changes touch an area on which you heavily rely, or do they cover a functionality that your bank does not use? If webinars, tutorials, or demos are available, have the key users attend and get familiarized with the changes. Changes may include bug fixes, something that will change how your team operates, or new useful functionality that you would benefit from 

 

  1. Define a testing plan and team to test the changes if needed 

Going through testing will not only confirm the solution continues to work as expected but can also be a wonderful opportunity to get your bank familiarized with the changes. A testing plan depends on the scope of the change and should be based on the review done when assessing areas of potential impact. The areas of greater impact should receive more attention and detailed test casesIf you have a test instance or a sandbox, use it to play out different scenarios and data entries without compromising your production environment. 

Test cases should also be as realistic as possible and mimic real business cases and situations you encounter during normal operations as well as corner cases. If possible, update your sandbox with the latest data to be as close as possible to production.  

 

  1. Contact the vendor if there are any issues 

Establish a relationship with your vendor where you and your team know how to contact them in case there are any issues that cannot be resolved internally. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, as your vendors want you to have a great, stress-free experience with their solution.  

 

  1. Define work around steps to mitigate any issues caused by the changes until a fix can be delivered by the vendor 

If an issue is found, how does it impact your operation? Do you need workaround, or can you live with it? If you can’t come up with a workaround, your vendor may have one or two things to suggest, but it is important that the workaround is documented and shared with the team so that operations can continue until the vendor can address the issue.  

 

Recurring vendor updates to your SaaS software are a necessary part of the software lifecycle process. But by following a few simple steps outlined above you can mitigate risk and ensure a smoother upgrade process for all involved. 

Challenging times, updated processes

In these days of the pandemic, most of us found ourselves working from home. For some this was nothing new – they already worked from home, had worked from home in the past, or occasionally switched between office and home. For others this was a sudden and change of infrastructure and the work culture.

Moving an entire financial institution to work remotely can be a challenge, even with modern technology at our disposal. Information Security plays an important part in daily activities, and one or more traditional brick and mortar environments can facilitate for an easier way to monitor and control sensitive data. Now, having all your staff working for home means additional locations to secure, VPN access to provide, and all the investment, both time and money, that comes with it.

There is also the human aspect, of course. Lending is a traditional industry, where decisions are usually made from personal interactions, in committees and board meetings, and then documented with ink on paper. You may have been forced to find band-aids and workarounds. These workarounds can be observed in the overuse of spreadsheets, e-mails, and imaging systems, which in general means the misuse of those applications.

As infrastructure and work culture changed, so did the processes. New ways to communicate and interact with colleagues, exchange files, make decisions, and store information came up.  More than ever we need to be prepared to access the information electronically and have a way to collaborate remotely. If your bank does not have a solution that allows you to efficiently work and produce from anywhere, it is now time to get one. You want to learn from this experience and be prepared for what comes next.

Is your banking software vendor truly your partner?

When you purchase a new banking system, you get more than a piece of software. Or at least you should. From training to ongoing support, there’s a tremendous difference between a vendor who sells you a system and a true partner who will work with you to enhance your banking operations. But how do you know which is which? Here are some questions to help you determine if a vendor is just that, a vendor, or if they might represent something more meaningful for your bank.

Do they have real banking expertise?

A software vendor that doesn’t have real-world banking experience will never have the institutional knowledge necessary to act as your true partner. The company may have been founded by a banker, and their salespeople may have some cursory knowledge of how their solution works in a banking environment. But for a real partner, you need to find a vendor that can offer expert insights based on experience. Ask any salespeople or other contacts about their banking background and what they can do to help improve your bank.

Do they want to understand your issues?

A vendor won’t be able to help solve your problems if they aren’t interested in learning what they are. You should be able to get a sense of this early on in the process, especially if you go through a software demonstration. Does the salesperson spend more time talking about features and system capabilities, or do they ask you about your needs first and foremost? A vendor looking to make a sale will talk about their program, while a true partner will take the time to find out what your challenges are and what you really want to know. Look for a vendor who puts your needs above their own and you’ll likely find one who is truly invested in your success.

How quickly do they respond?

If you have a question or need to troubleshoot a problem with your banking system, vendors will show you how much they care about you by the speed of their turnaround time. Any delays could prove costly, and a good partner is one who acts on that immediate need and moves quickly because they care about your business. It can take some companies weeks to fully resolve customer issues, while others respond and are actively working to solve the problem in only a few hours. Go with the software provider who is there for you when you need them most.

Do they go above and beyond?

Sometimes the only way to solve an issue is to go beyond the immediate problem to the underlying causes. For example, you might think you have a process problem when onboarding your treasury management services customers, but it could actually be an issue that requires system automation to fully resolve. A vendor that can identify those issues and give you insights on how to fix them, not merely put a Band-Aid on the problem with a quick workaround, is one worth keeping around. This may mean that the solution your vendor proposes isn’t the easiest or the cheapest one, but this is a good thing. When a vendor is willing to tell you something you may not want to hear, you can be sure they truly want what’s best for your organization.

Do they continue to be there for you?

Once they’ve made the sale, some banking software companies consider the engagement over. Sure, their helpline will be open if you have a problem. But their contact person will seemingly disappear, moving on to new targets as you struggle with implementation and the best way to utilize the software. Instead, find a vendor who will stick with you long after agreements have been signed. They should not only provide training to help facilitate a smooth transition to the new system, but they should also be there for you down the road. When a new software update becomes available, or they release a new version of the system, they should proactively reach out and educate you on the new features, not try to sell you the latest development. Although you won’t know how those interactions will go until after you’ve made your purchase, it pays to evaluate the service you’re getting from your vendors at every stage of your engagement.

Finding a software vendor that you trust enough to consider a partner isn’t always easy. But by looking for some of the characteristics discussed above, you can identify the vendors most likely to be worthy of your trust. From there, you can start building a relationship that will pay dividends now and into the future.

Ready to upgrade your banking systems with the help of a true industry expert? Contact BankPoint or schedule a demo of our powerful bank management system today.