Washington State CU Finds Scrums Help Projects Hum
In rugby, a scrum is where the two sides mash together with their heads down and try to secure possession of the prized ball as action resumes after a halt in play.
That's not what's happening at the $1.5 billion Washington State Employees Credit Union, where staffers are now pushing cross-departmental technology projects through to completion with new levels of speed, efficiency and collegiality.
That's according to Sandra Watson, assistant vice president of business technology at the Olympia-based credit union who spent time her first year there working with consultants from CUTEK to streamline WSECU's product development process.
One of the linchpins of the new process is the scrum, a term that has been borrowed from the sports world to refer to small groups of colleagues working intensely and collaboratively on a software development project.
And those kinds of scrums are now regular daily activities at
WSECU as teams work on such projects as a VISA balance transfer campaign and other marketing and reporting activities, all on a list of more than 30 projects on board.
It's been a change in culture, where the credit union's small team of programmers and other tech staff worked in relative isolation as they helped other departments-their internal customers-produce new products and services and serve members, Watson said.
"We were good at order taking and fulfillment, but solutions did not always meet the customer need," she said. "Today, our workflow allows for collaboration with the end user to discover root causes and implement viable and long-term solutions, the first time."
CUTEK, a San Diego-based specialist in the Symitar Episys core platform, provided the template for the culture change, training the credit union's analysts and programming staff and helping to create a new product development lifecycle-from analysis to design, programming, testing and delivery.
The consultancy cut its teeth providing Episys users with specialized add-ons and integration services and now finds helping to develop human collaborative processes a regular part of its client engagements.
"We routinely help our credit union partners reorganize their processes to work more effectively with the personnel they currently have," said Ron Murray, CUTEK president. "Not only in their process and technical skills, but in analysis skills, such as how to communicate with various departments, hold more effective meetings and everything else you can do to make the process a win/win for everyone involved."
The new processes have taken hold at WSECU, Watson said. "Now when an internal customer makes a request, we go meet with them and hear what the problem statement is and sit down with them and try to understand the root cause of what they want or need. Before we would hear the problem statement and just go off and begin coding," she said.
The results have included the ability to create customized solutions that otherwise might have cost more to procure from outside, such as an application fraud manager that includes alerts, flagging and automated reporting functions. They also reuse the software design patterns, getting six or seven applications out of one or two coding jobs now, Watson said. The internal efficiencies have allowed the CU's IT staff to do more with existing resources.