Keep things simple. That's the philosophy of Jason Wells, founder of SimplifyIT, a provider of intranet-driven knowledge management and help desk solutions to about 20 credit unions.
Wells co-founded his company in 2004 after seven years in IT at Oak Ridge National Laboratory FCU. "I'm now in my 12th year in managing intranets, and in talking to every level, from the tellers on up, what I've learned is that most solutions bombard employees with too much information, too much to dig through to find out what they need. We try to avoid that," he said.
Two of the provider's clients, Brian Shriver, assistant vice president of information technology at $157 million Carolina Trust FCU in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Katie Grindeland, marketing manager at $45 million Star Choice CU in Minneapolis, have both found Wells' managing tactics helpful.
Grindeland said that SimplifyIT has worked for her organization, where the intranet provider's software is used to store procedures, handle marketing and IT requests, post updates on goal-meeting progress, and share stories, among other services.
She said, "We wanted the intranet to look good, carry our brand and be fun. We also knew that if it wasn't simple or added an extra process or step to their daily routine, our staff wouldn't use it, not matter how hard we push it." Wells said his system is designed to "be a kind of extension of the IT department." That approach shows on the Carolina Trust intranet home page, where a Symitar logo provides the portal to do-it-yourself help for common problems such as printer re-starts as well as help desk tickets.
"We wanted it to take some of the stress of our IT staff, but it really has helped everyone else, too, by giving them an easy route to resolving a lot of issues on their own," said Shriver at Carolina Trust.
There are a number of intranet solutions on the market, of course. Wells claims cost as a differentiator for his solution, along with agility to meet customer requests.
He said his clients bring desired features to him and he then checks around to see if there's enough demand to go with it. "Our feature set is driven by the needs of our customers," he said.
One recent example of the intranet's features presents an easy solution to a task faced by many credit unions-getting a handle on vendor management.
"Last year one of our credit unions called and said the examiners were coming and they needed some help," he said. "We quickly rolled something out so that now people don't have to manage all that information-vendor contacts, risk ratings, things like that-on paper or in Excel."
Solutions also aren't sold as modules, as is typically the case, but instead are added to the system as needed. "We just have a different view of how to do this," said Wells, who claims his company has never lost a client.
He said making content management and custom design easy also have been initiatives of the organization. "We want employees who own the information to control its delivery," he said. For instance, customers can either use an HTML editor for their content management, or if they're more technically inclined, use manual HTML coding.
Grindeland also said she has taken advantage of that flexibility. "I update the home page of the intranet and provide the basic information and links. Then the other employees can update their own pages with as much information as they need. Not everyone needs or wants the same information."
She also said that Wells' team responded quickly to her request for a new solution. "We needed a calendar system housed in our intranet where our staff could take out reservations such as time to take a laptop on the road or use a projector at a meeting. This has helped us keep track of when equipment was being used and also gave us a good idea of what we should buy in the future, based on staff reservation requests."Shriver at Carolina Trust said there was a learning curve as his 65-person, six-branch operation adjusted to the system over the past year or so. "It was a huge change and pretty steep at first, but it leveled out," he said, "as people got more acclimated to it. Of course, they were going from what we had before-one page with 200 links or more on it-so it was a pretty drastic change."
He said for his part, the system has been easy to use. It runs on a Windows server, incorporates updates quickly-"I just updated the newest version while we're talking here on the phone," he said while talking to Credit Union Times-and should prove handy in an emergency on South Carolina's hurricane-prone coast.
"It's worked well with every disaster recovery test. It's easy for me to take the entire thing, load it on a jump drive and go," he said.