Teenage Wasteland (with respect to The Who and “Baba O’Riley”)

I recently had another epiphany as I walked, or should I say fought my way, into my teenage daughter’s private jungle to sign the application for a school activity she had asked to participate in as it was due the next day.

I think anyone who has ever raised or been around teenagers will relate to this following scenario…

  1. She couldn’t remember where she put it
  2. She thought she may have left it at school
  3. Wait, it might be in her backpack
  4. Maybe it was in one of the many piles of paper scattered among her clothes on the floor
  5. It might be out in her car
  6. She thinks one of her friends has it in her backpack
  7. Found it in her lunch sack, she put it there so she would remember to bring it home to be signed.

After experiencing this latest paper drama it finally dawned on me that this very scenario was much like the experience many of our prospective customers face each day fighting their own paper and document jungles.

There has been an interesting dynamic occurring in the credit union industry as it has matured and grown due to the increasing complexities associated with the implementation of specialized departmental technology solutions.

Let me explain.  When I first started working in the technology sector with credit unions nearly 30 years ago, their “core data processing system” was very much the center of their universe.

Over time, however, these core systems grew beyond the original transactional storage systems to include functionalities such as automated lending, voice response systems, ATM access, home banking, Check 21, imaging, etc. The list continues to goes on and on.

Much like Galileo discovered about the Earth in the 1600’s, however, many credit unions have implemented other specialized best of breed programs that really don’t revolve around their core as the center of their galaxy as originally thought.

Instead, all of these other programs reside within the entire universe of operations in the CU much like Galileo’s discovery that the Earth was merely another (albeit important to us) planet in the larger scope of things.

Hence, this evolution of implementing best of breed solutions in the credit union industry has created a conundrum of sorts in that information and documents are now being stored across many different platforms, databases, and repositories leading to a similar scenario I experienced with my daughter and that, in turn, is creating challenges in providing a centralized repository of easily accessed information.

Unfortunately, there is still the mistaken belief that the core is still the center of the “credit union galaxy,” which may or may not be partially true depending on the complexity of the institution.

If a credit union is fairly basic in its operations, then certainly it would make sense to simplify operations as much as possible under one “core” roof.

As many credit unions have found out, however, to be competitive in their respective markets, they have had to implement more specialized and sophisticated solutions than are generally found within their core solutions. Subsequently, they have looked to and implemented these other solutions.

Because of this shift, many core providers have attempted to solve this competitive issue by either purchasing these specialized solutions and wrapping them under their corporate umbrellas or trying to develop their own in-house offerings to maintain their one-stop-shop appeal for their credit union clients.

It can be debated whether or not these strategies are ultimately successful. But the real issue is that a credit union’s universe has expanded due to the ongoing need for specialization – and the more this occurs (which it has and will continue to do so), the more fractured the data and document storage conundrum will expand, too.

So how can credit unions help resolve some of these issues?

It is my personal and professional belief that credit unions must adopt an “Enterprise Centric” mindset that recognizes that the need for specialized program applications is going to become increasingly complex. This increase means a continuing shift away from the core providers as the center of credit unions’ universe for other than transactional type applications. (Please don’t misunderstand my take on the critical role of the cores in credit unions; just realize they can’t do it all anymore.)

It also means that credit unions must also begin to look at and implement centralized repository storage solutions for the documents and data generated by the implementation of these other programs such that access to this data is easily available to both staff and members alike where required and security allows.

Fortunately, Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMs) have been around for years in larger market spaces and have finally made their way down to affordability to the credit union industry.

These ECMs don’t care where the documents and data come from. They are simply the final storage repository that allows credit unions to choose the best solutions they feel necessary to stay competitive and not worry about trying to keep track of all associated documents, processes, and storage amongst themselves.

Now all of these other programs can reside and work together in the CU universe through advanced functions such as workflow and business process management integrations that tie each of these programs together and allow interoperability among seemingly disparate systems.

This technology also provides a very critical role in the area of disaster recovery (DR). It simplifies and stores the most critical operational data into a single repository. Subsequently, if the unthinkable may happen, the combination of high level DR found with most core providers is also readily available for an ECM system and operations can resume in a more expedient and structured fashion.

As you may have come to realize as you have read through this article, the epiphany I described when venturing into the jungle found within my daughter’s room actually had its roots in what I have seen working with credit unions and large businesses over the past 30 years in the tech industry.

It is my hope that credit unions, much like Galileo did upon his realization that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe after all, broaden their perspective to take a different look at how their own business operations may benefit by this change to an “Enterprise Centric Mindset”.

It would certainly be less painful than the tetanus shot I required following my visit to the “jungle.”

Scott Cowan

Scott Cowan

Over the past 25 years, Mr. Cowan has held Executive Technical Sales and Management positions with several Fortune 500 companies including: Fiserv, Qwest Communications and Nokia Internet Communications, Network Security ... Web: www.mviusa.com Details