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SEATTLE – Burning records might seem a bit suspicious in today’s corporate environment, but it was just a celebration at Boeing Employees Credit Union. To mark the implementation of an automated payroll and benefits software solution, “we had a ceremonial burning of 850 time sheets behind the building the day we went live,” said Joan Parish, IT program manager for HR at BECU. The 10-month implementation of Lawson Software’s human resources suite was intended to help BECU automate the core functions of its HR department, including payroll and benefits administration. The result? “Payroll has streamlined dramatically,” Parish said. “The payroll process used to take a full week, and now takes a day and a half. “The system has allowed HR to focus on the future and support BECU’s strategic initiatives rather than be bogged down in administrative tasks.” She added, “It also allows HR staff to act as consultants, rather than paper-pushers. Additionally, it has prompted HR staff to step up a level in professionalism and productivity.” BECU, with 950 employees, 321,000 members and more than $4 billion in assets, is one of the nation’s largest credit unions. It also is one of 11 large credit union clients of Lawson Software’s HR solutions, (Orange County Teachers FCU, America First CU and WesCorp are three of the others.) Other notable clients include TIAA/CREF, the world’s largest pension company. In addition to streamlining payroll operations and similar functions through what BECU calls its Employee-Manager Self-Service solution from Lawson, BECU also is rolling out a self-service HR portal that it expects to go live with in June. Such portals allow employees to find out for themselves such things as how many vacation days they have left, details of their various benefits, hiring dates, all those arcane but important facts that employees need to know and HR staffers have had to stop what they’re doing to find out. “That leaves the HR staff more time to deal with more specialized problems and issues, the kinds of things many of them were really hired for,” says Tim Plunkett, financial services vertical market director at Minnesota-based Lawson Software. For big, innovative CU’s like BECU, that means more time for implementing the big picture. “The relationship between HR and IT at BECU has enabled us to capitalize on the technology available to us,” said Debbie Terry, BECU’s HR director. “This will allow us to evolve into an e-HR unit, letting us focus on BECU’s strategic direction rather than administrative processes,” she said. BECU has been aggressively implementing integrated solutions, including a DP conversion to Open Solutions Inc.’s system that was billed as the largest such conversion in credit union land in decades. The human resources suite from Lawson Solutions was also part of that effort to integrate and streamline functions. “For example, Payroll allows all employees to input time records into their computers, and that information is automatically routed to the appropriate manager’s computer for approval, and then sent to Human Resources, where it is integrated with Lawson’s automated payroll module,” Parish says. “At any point in time, those with authorized access can pull real-time data from the system for reporting. Our managers also can use self-service to track performance evaluations and attendance,” she says. Of course, no matter how slick the solution, it doesn’t do anybody any good if it goes unused. Plunkett and BECU staffers both agreed that getting employee buy-in is essential. “One of our biggest obstacles was dealing with techno-phobic staff,” Parish said. “Some were unfamiliar with browsers and, in some cases, with PC’s altogether,” said the IT program manager. “To overcome this, we had a comprehensive internal marketing and education plan built into the project. “It included open labs for hands-on experience, and staff in each area who had been specially trained to support the project when it went live. “We also experienced some struggles with support, as we were one of Lawson’s first clients on an NT platform and SQL and SQL server. As an early adopter for the self-service modules, that was a challenge as well.” The early adopters are a growing family, according to a new report from Forrester Research. “By 2004, nearly half of all employers will offer an employee benefits portal,” says Forrester analyst Bradford Holmes. “HR executives know what they want – more employee accountability, lower costs and improved benefits.” He said 40% of firms with more than 1,000 employees have benefits portals already, with another 24% intending to roll one out by 2004. Meanwhile, about 12% of companies with less than 1,000 employees already are or plan to offer such portals this year, with another 10% joining in next year. Plunkett says he sees the growing interest in services like those of Lawson Software and its major competitor, PeopleSoft, as being “clearly a wave of the future. Everything is going Web-based, with ASP’s and outsourcing. In fact, we just had a big bank out East buy our HR product and roll it out to its commercial banking customers as a re-seller.” In the credit union space, Lawson Software is focusing on credit unions of $500 million to $2 billion in assets, which Plunkett concedes is a somewhat short list. “It’s not that we haven’t had prospects smaller than that, but what happens is the larger you get, all of a sudden things get much more complex and you find you really need an automated solution to take care of things,” Plunkett says. “That said, it’s true that dealing with credit unions vs. banks is like apples and oranges. Banks are looking more for profits and making the numbers. Credit unions are looking more at getting the best possible deals for their employees. They’re a very tight-knit group,” Plunkett said. “But they both offer products that have become commodities and they both want to be as efficient as possible in controlling expenses,” he said. “Either way, it’s still an efficiency play,” Plunkett says. “Our clients are saying, `It’s not that we want our employees to be producing more widgets. We want them to be able to produce more widgets in less time and do other things, too.’ ” -

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