How to Prepare for Your New Pension Administration Solution
Replacing or reinventing your pension administration solution (PAS) is a significant undertaking for any sized pension plan. Being fully prepared before you begin can reduce stress, cost, and delivery time. Here are nine ideas to consider now so your team is ready to go at kickoff.
This is an excerpt from NCPERS Spring 2023 issue of PERSist, originally published March 21, 2023.
Replacing or reinventing your pension administration solution (PAS) is a significant undertaking for any sized pension plan. It is both a financial burden and a source of stress for staff that typically lasts several years. Being fully prepared before you begin can reduce stress, cost, and delivery time. Here are a few pre-RFP activities that will help your staff and your vendor be successful sooner:
1. Evaluate the condition of your data – is it accurate? Current? Do you have multiple, fugitive data sets that need to be combined? Depending on what your evaluation shows, you may want to hire a data management vendor to cleanse your data before starting the project. Your data vendor will need about six months effort before your PAS vendor can start.
2. Decide which subject matter experts (SMEs) will support what types of functionality (e.g., wages, service, payroll, member statements, etc.). Ensure that your SMEs fully understand their current processes, are aligned with the leadership in terms of how much change to the current processes you are willing to tolerate, and are authorized to provide candid feedback during requirements review. When SMEs are empowered to make decisions, the requirements process moves faster.
3. If current processes are not documented, write them down. This doesn't need to be extensive; it just needs to be articulated clearly so everyone understands your ‘As Is' process. This avoids the need for your vendor to affirm the As Is with your SMEs before starting on the ‘To Be' process.
4. Collect, review and update the forms and letters that you send to your members regularly, including your Member Statement. Think about what you like and don't like about these letters before you enter requirements gathering.
5. Consider budgeting for temporary staff who can step in behind your permanent staff and keep the wheels on the current bus while your permanent staff builds the new bus. This is most helpful during requirements gathering. Knowing their customers are being served gives your staff relief and allows them to focus on the new work without being overwhelmed. Your staff will be grateful that you considered their wellbeing and will be able to focus better on your new solution.
6. Ensure that there is time and space reserved for collaboration. This would be a room/area (physical or virtual) that is set aside for team members to gather as needed to look at a design, discuss a requirement or document an issue.
7. Plan for milestone celebrations. For example, when a major release is deployed, take time to celebrate all the hard work with the project team (your internal staff, your consultants and your vendor). That brief pause before starting the next phase lets the team recognize their collective accomplishments. Celebrating together supports healthy team dynamics and fuels collaborative energy.
8. Change management is critical for success. Help your team adapt to new processes and the new system by scheduling frequent hands-on opportunities to view and play with the new system. Your staff – even those who aren't involved in the new development – will feel more engaged and more enthused about the project when they can touch it regularly. It would be ideal to plan for this time at the start of your project and announce it to your staff so they know their concerns were considered from the beginning.
9. COVID and other viral illnesses will remain a challenge for on-premise activities for you and your vendor. Ensuring that you have the equipment necessary for your team members to conduct project work remotely is ideal and could avoid a project delay while equipment/training is established.
Laurie Mitchell has worked in the pension industry since 2003 when she joined the Michigan Office of Retirement Services. There she served in many roles, including leading portions of their pension replacement project, and served eight years as their Customer Service Director. After retiring, she joined Tegrit where she brings an agency perspective to their RFP responses and project implementations.