For about a year, PSCU Financial Services has been using a piece of integration software that sits atop its new IBM WebSphere interface and provides a single point of managed file transfer and actionable communication between multiple platforms in-house and third party.
It also added a bit of humanity to the process, according to the big CUSO and the company that supplied its Metastorm Integration Manager solution.
From a back-shop perspective, MIM is the integration engine that has helped PSCU cut about 20% of its development costs for new products and services through rapid integration of data from outside key partners such as First Data, the cards transaction processor, and in PSCU's own call center.
The human element is the way it does that, according to Steve Lattman, chief information officer at PSCU in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Kevin Haugh, vice president of product marketing at Metastorm in Baltimore.
"All integration solutions provide points of access and pass along data. We've added a rich, human-based process management context to it," Haugh said. The MIM solution, for instance, uses a point-and-click Web interface to allow central configuration of systems interactions that can be securely initiated anywhere in the organization.
"We also empower our customers to model how and when they want to implement changes or act on data based on, for instance, the condition of the data or the level of human involvement that's needed," Haugh said.
To Lattman, that means the ability to both quickly detect and repair a problem transaction among the millions that pass through PSCU's servers each day, while at the same time-on the other side of the big CUSO-find new ways of getting helpful products in front of the ultimate end user of all this-the individual credit union member.
"I'm in the call center business," Lattman said. "Say we get a call from a member who wants to understand something about their account, maybe a recent activity. Metastorm gives me the ability to not only look back and do that, but pull up a results-based table that allows our agent to offer the opportunity to members to sign up for a new service that their credit union has just deployed.
"We also can help everyone meet new regulations, such as the (Reg E) opt-in on overdraft protections. By being able to do this more quickly, we're bringing more value to our customers, the credit unions, by helping them be better able to serve their members. Those are the human-based values we're serving here."
The MIM solution-part of the CUSO's enterprise-wide Data Gateway Hub initiative-lowers operational costs by streamlining processes, Metastorm said. For instance, a directory monitor detects new files created from various applications and moves them to any number of subsequent applications and data stores. Then a distribution list shares information among hundreds of computing resources, allowing data to be where it needs to be regardless of the platform or application.
Lattman said that it helps get products to market some 20% more quickly "because we have kind of separated the data access layer from the application layer. We can create a set of data that multiple applications can then easily access and consume."
That centralized view also extends to costly recovery time, by using a "follow-the-bouncing-ball" approach to find the source of errors that are, for instance, causing transaction exceptions.
Failover systems, for instance, have been created in PSCU data centers in St. Petersburg and Phoenix, and if a response is not received from a card transaction between PSCU and First Data, the MIM system will send an alert and execute backup actions.
The human element also plays a part here. "Something may happen that has absolutely nothing to do with the MIM technology but may require human intervention as well as automated issue resolution. A more system-oriented solution than ours isn't built with that in mind, for those times when you have to reach out to a broader group of people to resolve a problem," Haugh said.
Lattman said PSCU is currently running the MIM solution in-house and with some call center applications, case management functions and some of the self-serve applications credit unions provide their members on the Web.
Looking ahead, "we believe we'll be able to extend it as a data-integration service to our credit union clients as we gain more experience and depth with this," Lattman said. "There could be business intelligence and analytics that we may be able to make available to them that can help them improve their own members' experience."