What a Video Game Can Tell Us About Credit Unions and Technology

by. Brad Powell, Axiaware

Video game giant Electronic Arts released a highly-anticipated update of its “SimCity” game last month – and it probably could not have gone worse.

The highly anticipated new version of the classic PC game had a new feature: It required gamers to be connected to the internet to play. EA’s servers quickly were overloaded, frustrating hundreds of thousands of players who had paid $60 or more for the game – but couldn’t play it.

Eventually, EA fixed its server problems. But in the month since the game’s release, the company’s CEO has stepped down and the company has issued a reported 900,000 free games as apologies to affected players. And EA recently “won” Consumerist‘s annual Worst Company in America poll for the second consecutive year.

By now, you are probably asking “What does this have to do with credit unions?”

There is a parallel. As technology advances, credit union leaders hear more and more about the importance of keeping up — adding cloud-based and mobile applications for their customers, for instance. There are, in fact, many excellent reasons for upgrading and refining the use of technology to better serve customers and achieve worthwhile efficiencies.

But you have to get it right.

The tech world is full of companies, from slick startups to longtime power players such as Apple and Samsung, that have risen to dominance by setting the bar for consumer expectations to ever-greater heights.

Today, consumers expect to update their status on Facebook, check movie listings on an iPhone, or look up a famous person’s birthday on Google – and have it work every time. And in fact, these things tend to work very well.  But failing to deliver carries a heavy price.  As we come to depend upon technology, we’re less forgiving of its flaws.

Avoiding issues like the ones EA has faced with SimCity starts with technology planning. I wrote in February that your strategic work should include a knowledgeable IT voice from the beginning. That voice will help you make smart decisions from the start – picking the right vendor or solution, while making sure you don’t launch a new project just because the technology is trendy or used by a competitor.

It’s a good idea to build and deploy an experienced development team that understands the territory. Simply hiring a company to work to requirements exposes your institution to the risk, not only that the end product won’t be what you need, but that it will potentially drive business out of the door if it frustrates and disappoints.

It’s impossible for us to know exactly where EA went wrong with SimCity in the planning stages. Were people who understood the limits of the servers not part of the process? Did the early conversations connect the tech team with people who understood the SimCity customer base? How was the development team chosen?

The irony here is that the game of SimCity is based on the importance of planning. If you choose a bad location for your virtual city or make ill-advised decisions in your first few turns, it can be very difficult to build a thriving metropolis. Planning matters – and the public’s expectations are very real.

Brad Powell

Brad Powell

Brad Powell is President and CEO of Axiaware, a custom software and user experience design firm that helps credit unions bridge the gap between a business goal and a software ... Web: www.axiaware.com Details