PEWAUKEE, Wis. - The Wisconsin Credit Union League wants a candid assessment of where it's headed with its technology projects.
The League recently brought in Extreme Arts & Sciences, Eugene, Ore., to do a two-day audit of its IT initiatives and provide a state-of-the-state report on whether or not the League's current tech efforts will help it reach its long term goals.
According to Chris Olson, public relations specialist for the Wisconsin League, the league wants to utilize technology to provide better service to its 351 members CUs and affiliates, and make communicating with them easier.
"We're engaged in our Millennium Project. By 2003 one of our league overall goals is transferring as much of our communication to electronic means," she said.
The league's last audit was done five years ago by Evans & Associates, a Milwaukee consulting firm. Extreme Arts & Science will review that audit report to see how well the league is doing so far in reaching its tech goals.
"What we try to do is give a chiropractic snapshot between the strategy the league is going for and the IT infrastructure-how the physical nature of the network and human resources are working," said Randy Harrington, CEO of Extreme Arts & Sciences.
Harrington said more and more leagues are turning to Web-based technologies to serve their member credit unions. "The reality is that the competencies and tools needed for success in a Web environment are different than the competencies needed for managing a LAN for example," said Harrington.
In this Web age, said Harrington, the IT department can no longer be isolated from the rest of the league or credit union. For that matter, he said, all departments have to know what is happening with IT.
"Who is managing the Web channel from a strategic point of view? IT people are so task-oriented, they don't have time to participate and know everything about long-term Web strategy."
But at the same time it's not easy to simply train people from other departments to get involved with the Web. "It's no simple thing to pick up SQL programming skills. But do you go hire people? Train people? It takes time and money."
So one answer, said Harrington, is to have a free flow of information between IT and all other departments, even departments as structured as accounting.
"I've successfully upset just about everybody. One thing people don't like to hear is that the people in accounting need to be more (tech) savvy and take some responsibility. IT is no longer centralized. It shouldn't be held by the keeper of the primary mainframe. It needs to be distributed and so should the responsibility."
Harrington said the Web strategy of the future is simple, but getting there is the hard part. "In a Web-centric assessment, ask the questions `are you ready to database' and `are you ready to Web?'"
He said credit unions and leagues are going to need to translate their business processes into a database and get them on the Web.
"The next generation Internet is all database-based. The Web presence being built dynamically as a response to database queries, as opposed to static HTML pages-they age too fast. A dynamic environment that changes is the future," said Harrington.
To do a Web-centric tech audit, Harrington said a firm needs to have an equal blend of tech savvy and business sense, so it can fit technology into an organization's long term strategy.
At press time, the Wisconsin league was at the end of the first day of the audit.
"I'm pleased with what we're seeing so far. The worst case scenario is when IT people don't think there are any problems," said Harrington, which was not the case at the Wisconsin league.
One key tech component Extreme Arts & Science is looking at is the league's iMIS database. The database took two years to develop and cost the league $50,000. It is designed to plug all league departments into the most recent information about its member CUs. It looks at what league products a CU uses; what workshops they've attended; whether they hold board planning sessions; and many other areas. The league wants iMIS to provide a comprehensive snapshot of each of its members so it can serve them better.
Harrington had yet to delve into iMIS at press time, but said his firm will present a ten to thirty page report to league officials when the audit is completed. -firstname.lastname@example.org