Collect! Credit and Collection Software™

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How To Have A Successful Data Conversion

Here's the ideal picture. You've bought a wonderful new software system you know will make your life easier and your business more profitable. The data has been transferred from the old system to the new. Now you want your staff to be able to get right to work.

How to accomplish this? Planning is the key. Conversions are complex, whether or not you convert your data, we do it, or you hire external technical help. If you convert accounts on a Friday night and you expect to be working in the new system on Monday morning, proper planning, setting up, training and testing must have been completed first.

No two systems are the same. Many aspects need to be implemented. By spending time at the beginning, understanding what is needed and preparing for it, you can avoid frustration and minimize any down time.

Planning

Get to know Collect!.
This is a very powerful tool and how you use it can be as basic or sophisticated as you choose. We recommend that you start closer to basic. As your system knowledge matures, so may your system setup and work flow.

Get the whole team on board.
Have staff look at Collect!. Consider installing Collect! on a machine where everyone can gain access. Do yourself a favor and get some basic setup done before they look. This will provide a sense of familiarity and security and promote team spirit.

Install Collect! as a demo on as many workstations as you wish. Give your staff an opportunity to look at Collect!, try it and ask questions. They are the ones who will be working the system, so it makes sense for them to be comfortable, knowledgeable and competent.

What does the technician need?
Getting the data out of your old system is one of the more important steps you need to take. Do you have the knowledge and skill set within your office to perform this task? Don't assume, try it. If you feel this is not your area of expertise, you may wish to find a local technician to help you or perhaps request help from the original software provider. Comtech cannot take responsibility for exporting your historical data.

Please read our documentation about importing. Even if you don't wish to become an expert yourself, you will gain a better understanding of the complexities and will be prepared to work with the technicians doing the conversion. Comtech provides expert conversion service at very a reasonable cost.

What do you want the data to look like when it gets into Collect!?
Manually enter a client and a few debtors. Choose the fields you want to use and the way you want to use them. Most fields can be relabeled to make your use of Collect! intuitive. If you don't like your initial attempts, delete and do it again. Before you make field name changes, look at the Collect! Help on the Debtor form to ensure you don't violate any Credit Bureau reporting requirements.

If you are having our technical experts convert your data for you, they will ask you to plan as outlined above and to send any resulting information to us. Regardless of who is doing the actual data conversion, they will appreciate your superior planning and expertise.

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Getting To It

Collect! Setup

While your data is actually being converted, you have time to get ready. Now is when the real work begins. Setup is key to your entire operation, now and in the future. What is your standard work flow? What reports and letters do you require? Get these in place before your accounts are brought into the new system.

You will want to list the status codes you use, create your contact management process, place your transaction types and operators so your new system is in line with the old system aspects. There are many other important areas. It is absolutely essential that you review the How to Setup Collect! Checklist in the Collect! Help system.

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Testing

The first pass on your converted data has been made and delivered to you. You feel pretty confident that you have set up Collect! very nicely and know what you are doing.

Ready, Set ... Do not go live. Test, test, test.

Regardless of how knowledgeable and thorough you are, there is no replacement for double checking your work. You may have missed something. Test. (If at all possible, it is best if you can run your old system and your newly setup and converted Collect! database side by side for a while.)

Installing new software usually means modifying your network to get the best performance. Collect! is no exception. You or your technicians may have to deal with newer equipment, maybe a new operating system, and some changes in network configuration. Running systems side by side is an excellent opportunity to verify you have been successful. It is almost guaranteed that there will be something that was not thought of or has been overlooked on the first pass. That is why you must test. If there are little tweaks that need to be made to the import or the data, your hardware, network or their setup, now is the time to find out, before you go live. The second pass will be much more polished and your confidence level and knowledge of Collect! will have increased considerably. Now is the chance to run the old system and new side by side for final verification. Ideally, you should run month end on both systems and compare the figures. When everyone is confident that setup and data layout are just right and the numbers are correct, it's time to make a final cut-over and go live.

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Bottom Line

Getting your data from system A to system B is not enough. Representatives of many software companies will tell you how easy this is. Please take what they say with a grain of salt. You must think through time lines, understand the new system and prepare it according to your needs and according to the data you are about to convert.

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Preparing For A Conversion

Preparing for your conversion is a very important step. If it is skipped, you may spend incredible amounts of time getting to your desired results. Proper attention to this preparation pays off amazingly. It is important to know, if you ever need to automate the conversion of data.

tip.gif If your data set is small, less than 50 clients and 600 debtors, then entering the data manually may be more cost-effective than importing. It is time-consuming to learn the importing process. Instead, you may want to use the time for learning how to use Collect!. Reading this document should help you decide whether or not the conversion process is right for you.

Preparing for a conversion is a three part process:

  1. Learn where to put the data in Collect!
  2. Get the data from your old system ready for Collect!
  3. Import the data into Collect!

The preparation process will make more sense as you proceed. This can be a big job. You have just purchased a new business application that takes getting used to. You have to learn what the fields and forms in Collect! are used for. Start simply, using only what you need for now. You may discover that it is not as complex as you thought it would be.

1. Learn where to put the data in Collect!

This most important step will help you and your technicians when the time comes to take the information from the other system and import this data into Collect!

Get your previously used system up and running. Then start Collect! and sign in. Enter information for a client and a few accounts into Collect! This will help you determine what data you need from the old system and where this data is placed in Collect!

Select good samples from your old system to start entering in Collect! - just a few. Don't enter 300 clients, only to find out that you may have to delete them, or re-enter them differently! Start with a small, well-chosen cross section of your current client types. Enter a few accounts for each client. This helps you determine what to do with data from the old system and will, at the same time, teach you more about Collect!

You may discover that Collect! does not have certain fields that you used in the old system. This may be because Collect! does not need these values. Perhaps they are calculated internally. For example, Collect! calculates the debtor's Owing from transactions and settings entered on the Debtor form. You cannot enter an Owing amount. Therefore, it would be pointless to try to import this value.

2. Get the data from your old system ready for Collect!

Now that you have entered data manually from the old system into Collect! you should have a better understanding of Collect!'s interface and a clearer idea of the types of data that you need to enter manually and what data can be imported from your existing system.

Data from the old system must be pulled into files that Collect! can import from. This may be as simple as creating a CSV file or writing reports to export your old data set to a fixed length ASCII text file.

This process is completely in your control. It requires someone who knows how to produce the data files so that Collect! can import them. Perhaps you have a company guru for your old system. If not, you may need to ask the software vendor for assistance. Or, you may have to delve into their documentation to find out how to get the data out of the system into appropriate files.

Consider this step completed when you have a set of ASCII text files in comma separated value or fixed length format with only the data that you need to import into Collect!. When you can guarantee that all your required data is in these files, you are ready to proceed. If the files contain extra information, this will not be a problem. Collect!'s import routine can skip over any data that is not needed.

3. Import the data into Collect!

You know where you want to place your data in Collect! and you are confident that you have the data in an appropriate file or files. To complete the conversion process, the last step uses Collect!'s Import/Export module to bring the data into Collect!

tip.gif If you have jumped to this step before completing Steps 1 and 2, please go back, or you will waste many hours, generally getting frustrated and making your conversion overwhelming.

This step requires that someone has learned how to use the Import module in Collect! This can sometimes become a large task all on its own. You may request that Comtech create the import routine for you, now that you know where to place your data and have the data files ready. If you wish to continue doing this conversion process yourself, review the Help documentation on importing

to create the import routine. Use the import map that you, or Comtech, created to bring your database information from your old system into Collect!

After your data is imported successfully into Collect! you are ready to test your conversion and prepare the data so that your operators can use it.

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Entering Pre-Conversion Financials

You will want to ensure that Collect! has the correct values for Original Principal and Interest, and all payments made since assignment so that the correct and current amount Owing will be reached when converted accounts are entered and recalculated. It is also necessary to identify the Interest Rate and Last Interest Date so Collect! has a date to take over charging interest from to keep your balances accurate.

If you are entering Payment Transactions as part of your conversion, the following fields are important:

1. Use the correct Transaction Type codes to reflect your pre-conversion payments.

2. Payment Date - when you received it.

3. Posted Date - when you finalized it in your system. Most often is the same as the Payment Date. This is a very important
date in Collect!. It is the date that will make the payment eligible to be included on a client remittance. When Statements run, they are always looking at Posted Date UNLESS you set a company preference to indicate that your statements would use Payment Date only.

4. Correctly designate whether the payment was "To Us" - Paid to Agency, OR or "Direct" - Paid to Client. The accounting is
different depending on which and thus it is important to correctly distinguish between the two payment methods.

5. The Transaction record includes a field to input the Collector and Sales IDs who are to be given credit for that payment. If

these fields are blank for pre-conversion payments, you will not be able to obtain even recent past collector or sales recovery/productivity reports.

6. Commission Rate that was charged.

7. Taxes that were charged, if applicable.

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Notes

Notes can be entered in free form or converted electronically from your source file.

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Statement/Invoices

Statement/ Invoices can be generated ad hoc on whatever your client's remittance schedule requires. The most prevalent being Monthly. During a statement run, the system gathers all the debtor payments/directs, charges, fees, taxes, any payments the client made during the billing cycle and then computes what the clients' due amounts are, OR what amounts the client owes you for the end of that remittance cycle.

The Invoices tab on the client screen stores the Aged Balance Forward accounting and each time statements are generated, the clients' accounting history with your company is updated.

See Client Topics for more details on Remit types and running client Remittances.

You have two choices with a new installation.

  1. Print out your Accounts Receivable from your previous system before converting, then start your statements from the first month you are on Collect!. This will mean all the past history stays with the old system and only new billing cycles will be

    contained in Collect!. You will either:

    • pursue any pre-cut-over client balance forwards separately from Collect! and post them in your General Ledger accounting application ONLY since there will be no offsetting receivables for those amounts in Collect!, OR
    • contract us to input your last complete month's worth of receivables into Collect! for you, OR
    • input the client balance forwards yourself after one of our technicians shows you how to do this data manipulation. Depending on your installation agreement, this small training session may be included or available for a small add-on Timed Services fee.

  2. After converting your old accounts with all transactions, generate statements for every billing cycle in that client's history with your company to rebuild their A/R with your office. Necessary for this to be accurate are complete details for ALL past transactions for ALL debtors ever assigned and ALL client payments/write-offs made towards ANY accounts

    receivable that took place since you began doing business with this client. We find in practice that it is rarely possible to retroactively recreate a full financial history with a company that has been doing business with their clients over a considerable period of time. This being because ALL of the information necessary to do so is rarely available (and you would need to run 20 years worth of month-ends either incrementally or one very long, very computer performance taxing single 20 year period if that's how long you've been doing business with that client).

We recommend one of the flavors of Option #1 above.

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Recalculating Your Totals

To update your system after entering all your clients, debtors, transactions, closures etc., you will need to recalculate all system totals to refresh the tally fields in your clients, debtors and daysheets screens.

As a Collect! go forward operational rule of thumb, you should run a batch Recalc daily to ensure your totals everywhere are up to date. For example, if you have debtor accounts that accrue interest, balances will not automatically add that interest from the last date any was charged until either a person opens that account on their screen or your next batch Recalc which includes debtors is executed.

For a small to medium sized organization, this process will not take more than seconds to a few minutes to complete. As such, this task can be delegated to admin/clerical/inhouse IT personnel to manage as a daily task. Many of our clients prefer end of day or first thing in the morning to ensure outbound letters due to be issued are calculated current to the cent before issuance.

Companies with very large databases may wish to purchase our Scheduler module which would enable you to run this process unattended and off-hours, along with a considerable number of other features which can be redirected from requiring an operator to being an unattended task. Alternatively, those with large databases might also wish to consider purchasing additional user licenses so that staff who are responsible for the running of processes can have multiple sessions of Collect! running concurrently: one for processes and one to do actual hands-on work. Call Administration at 250-391-0466 option 3 for pricing on both add-ons above-mentioned.

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Testing Your Conversion

Make it a priority to test your conversion. You will want to test a complete collection or accounting cycle.

Testing is well worth every minute spent. Often, you can optimize the conversion routine. Testing may point out gaps in the accounting process caused by the converted data. Testing gives you important information to use when you are ready for the final

cut-over.

When you have finalized your data sets and created the import routine, doing this test run gives you two great bonuses.

One bonus is that you will be able to benchmark, or time the conversion process. This helps you schedule the time you'll need to get your data into Collect!. You may find that it takes 3 hours to complete your test. Then, you can simply schedule an afternoon. If it takes you a few days to import your data, then you will want to know this before allowing for just one night to complete the task!

Another great bonus is that you end up with a seeded database to use in the next step, working with Collect! and your newly converted data. You and your operators can learn Collect! reassured that this is just a test. Mistakes are not a problem, as you will be reimporting when you are finally ready to go live. Let yourself and your operators play with this test data, getting comfortable with Collect! without any pressure of making errors using the new software. They will love you for it. Their learning curve will be much shorter and they will have a great opportunity to learn how to work with your information in Collect!. Most importantly you will not end up with the nightmare, "There you are operators, we have the 60,000 accounts in Collect!, get to work!"

Test, evaluate the process, document thoroughly, and the conversion should go very smoothly with few scary unknowns. Some users choose to run both systems side by side for a given amount of time before deciding on a date for the final conversion.

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Going Through With The Final Cut-Over

This is the final stage of the converting from another system. Having completed the previous conversion steps, as documented, you are now at the last of the recommended steps. By now, you are well aware of the time it took to get the data sets, and the time it takes to import the data. You have examined the imported data and are happy with the results. You have tested and worked your imported accounts to learn how your operators will work with the converted data in Collect!.

During the testing, you may have become aware of areas that must be set up for using Collect! Before committing to the final cut-over, you should be able to answer YES to this question. Are you ready to announce to your users that you are ready to go?

If the answer is NO, and you still have questions about how Collect! works, then practice, learn more, and delay your final cut-over. Someone must be responsible for knowing how to use Collect! with the newly converted data. The last thing we advise is

importing 60,000 new accounts and going live before ever trying to work your data in Collect!.

Here are a few tips for when the final cut-over happens:

Save the data sets that you use for the final conversion. If you should have to repeat the process, or redo it with some changes, the data set files may save a great amount of time. Without them, you would have to start over and get the data out of your old system again.

Sometimes it is a good practice to run both systems side by side for a complete accounting or collection cycle. The most important point is not to interrupt the flow of our business. The pressure of doing a conversion 2 days before you need your statements generated should be avoided at all costs.

Do not delete or remove your previous program. It's Murphy's Law that when the old program, or data set, is gone, that will be the day you need it to tweak the data set to re-import. Keep at least one computer running with the old program. It will be reassuring and handy to access information from the old system as you are building confidence working with Collect!.

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