Business Modernization: CEO Shares Bridgeforce’s Successful Approach

The Bridgeforce editorial team recently sat down with John Sanders to discuss business modernization, the challenges of updating legacy systems, best practices, and Bridgeforce’s unique approach to ensuring successful implementations.

Q&A with John Sanders on Business Modernization


In simple terms, what does Bridgeforce do in the business modernization space?

John:  Bridgeforce brings business operations and tech together. Think of us as the bridge that helps businesses connect the natural gaps that exist between business operations and automation as organizations upgrade and modernize their systems for better digital experiences for their customers. We’ve been doing this for 24 years and it’s just as important now as when we started.

What problems do financial institutions face with their old systems?

John:  Financial institutions often deal with legacy systems that are expensive to maintain and hard to update. These systems are full of work-arounds and add-ons that offer less flexibility or functionality with time. Plus, they pose compliance risks because of increasingly strict regulations, specifically the requirement to evidence activities and demonstrate controls as compliance expectations ebb and flow.

What are the risks involved in updating these old systems?

John:  Business modernization projects can take years, which means there’s a risk of delays, cost overruns, and potential negative impacts on organizations that undertake these efforts. Compliance and operational risks are also concerns. Additionally, key team members might retire or move to other roles during the project, adding to overall complexity.

How does an organization know they are ready to take on such an initiative?

John:  I think the answer to that depends on the digital maturity of their systems and infrastructure. The expense of trying to keep an older system relevant can be a challenge. Some outside providers stop keeping up with versions. This leaves a financial institution on their own. And then there’s a higher cost to maintain the system. What I’m seeing with our clients is that they’re looking to bring more capability to their end customer. At that point, modernization of their systems is table-stakes.

What do you recommend as best practices to get started?

John:  You’ve got to start with the end of mind. We guide clients to ask themselves what the end product looks like. And I’m amazed at how many organizations do not take the time to really think this through. It’s not even about where you want to be in the “future.” It’s what are you really trying to achieve as a business objective? Where will you be 5 years out…3 years out…1 year out?

Once you can answer that, you know what you need from systems in order to help your organization achieve your goals. Taking the time to lay out a target operating model is time well spent, and the good news is that is doesn’t have to be a protracted exercise. We often care for this in a 1 or 2-day work session.

“A target operating model guides the entire business modernization process. It helps us understand business priorities and impacts on people, processes, and technology.”— John Sanders

Once an organization does that early work, what’s next?

John:  Get grounded in what the new platform or solution set looks like. Then focus on any industry considerations that must be contemplated based on the vision for the future. From there, we develop a prioritized plan, execute it in surgical pieces, and de-risk the conversion of new platforms or solutions into the existing infrastructure. We handle the detailed work like business and technical specifications, data mapping, and testing. Clients often think of us as the general contractor for a house; we coordinate the project, and work closely with all stakeholders to deliver on the end result.

Why is the target operating model so important?

John:  The target operating model guides the entire business modernization process. It helps us understand business priorities and impacts on people, processes, and technology. This ensures a smooth transition and that everything is ready for operation. Without a thoughtful plan, it’s like jumping into the deep end of the pool, and an organization can get caught up in the swirl quickly.

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What are the steps that have the biggest influence on success?

John:  We recommend a half dozen critical steps for any platform conversion. This includes a thorough review of the source system to ensure an in-depth understanding of all fields and data points. You must perform a detailed gap analysis between the source and target systems. Develop accurate architecture documents for both the source and target systems. Develop clear and concise migration requirements focused on the full credit life cycle, not just field mapping. Review external technology and strategic projects to ensure there is no impact to the conversion. Create detailed conversion plans with recovery back out strategies and approaches.

For me, that’s like stating the obvious, but depending on how well these steps get done, you’ll have either a smooth implementation or a very choppy one. The devil is in the details.

What specific areas does Bridgeforce focus on in these projects?

John:  We cover a range of areas including collections, customer communications, channel integration, fraud prevention, customer information files, deposit payment systems, and document management, among others.

What are the key steps for a successful platform conversion?

John:  We start with a thorough review of the current system, then perform a detailed gap analysis between the old and new systems. As just mentioned, accurate documentation, clear migration requirements, reviewing external projects for potential impacts, and having detailed conversion plans with backup strategies are all crucial steps.

Timeline image example of milestones for business modernization

You need what I call a universal milestone plan for any system implementation, regardless of your system methodology (waterfall or agile). Regardless of approach, these actions really have to happen as critical milestones to ensure a new platform’s successful implementation. These include things such as defining business rules, mapping processes, agreeing on design principles, among other things.

Can you give examples of how your approach has helped clients?

John:  Definitely. For example, we helped a client implement a fraud system faster, saving them about $600,000 a month in fraud losses. In another case, we assisted in faster delivery of a client’s new telephony system, saving them tens of thousands of dollars monthly due to supplier contract terms.

What are the main factors to consider in project implementations?

John:  There are three main factors: functionality, cost, and timeframe. Depending on the organization’s priorities, they might focus on keeping costs constant, ensuring all desired functionalities, or meeting a critical deadline.

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How does Bridgeforce ensure that users adopt new systems successfully?

John:  It’s not just about technical implementation; it’s about making sure everyone is on board. We engage stakeholders early on, provide thorough training, and manage expectations to ensure a smooth transition and effective use of new systems. It’s human nature to resist change. I’ve seen some of the best technical implementations perceived as less than good because user adoption was low. Conversely, I’ve seen implementations with small non-critical defects be viewed as wildly successful because the end-users were bought into the new capabilities.

What makes Bridgeforce stand out from other companies?

John:  We’re hands-on and work as an extension of our client’s team. Our experience in program management and focus on operational readiness helps minimize rework, delays, and missteps, ensuring efficient and successful implementations.

We have walked in our clients’ shoes so we know the pitfalls and the critical early steps to avoid failure. When we work with clients, we leverage the experience, tools and templates we have from previous engagements to accelerate progress and drive execution of a detailed, well-organized plan.

Multiple stats exist about failure of projects—anywhere from 30% to 55% to even as high as 80%—can fail. Not on our watch. We are always heavily invested because our clients’ success is our success.

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