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WESTLAKE, Ohio – As a non-profit member cooperative, a credit union ought to be a place where people know how to work together. But everyone can use a little help. That’s the idea behind Connections Online, a Web-based collaboration and management software suite that helps credit union staffers track projects, stay in touch with each other and generally stay on top of things, its creator says. “Connections Online puts everything online that employees and leaders need to be productive, contribute effectively, feel rewarded by their work, understand accountability and authority, and understand their role,” says Jim Cardwell of the Cardwell Group in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake, Ohio. Connections Online (www.connectionsonline.net) was developed in 1998 as a way to migrate Cardwell’s Connections Consulting methods from paper onto the Internet. It evolved from an Excel database to a relational database with a SQL backbone and now to the Web. It’s also now open architecture and integrated with the Microsoft programs Word, Excel, Outlook and Project. The program’s five modules – Organization Connection, Team Connection, Individual Connection, My Connection and Related Links – create content sets that talk to each other, allowing the people behind those communications to effectively share strategies and progress reports, organization values and collaboration across time and space internally and over secured Web connections, the company says. “Since all data is updated real-time, when anyone in the organization makes a change – such as completes a project, changes a priority date or makes an update – the information is available immediately throughout the organization,” says Kristie Greenleaf, who helps Cardwell direct sales for Connections Online. “It creates a virtual replica of the real people organization, which facilitates communication, teamwork, trust and collaboration towards strategic goals,” she says, adding that being Web-based also means it can be used by staffers anytime from anywhere. About 50 organizations are now using Connections Online, including 40 credit unions, among them Addison Avenue FCU and Coast Hills FCU in California, Affinity Plus FCU in Minnesota, Tampa Bay FCU, Oregon Telco Community CU, Mid-Atlantic Corporate CU in Pennsylvania and St. Mary’s Bank in New Hampshire. At $1.7 billion Addison Avenue, CEO Steve Lumm says Connections Online is helping his staff track nine specific projects at the moment, including changes in the CU’s real estate processes and the addition of several branches. “It’s tracking the timeline and the investment, all the way to the days members begin using them on opening day,” he says. The content and project management approach also fits Addison Avenue’s general management philosophy, Lumm says. “We take very much a collaborative, teamwork approach and Connections Online has helped us define those teams, so there’s no ambiguity about them or their priorities,” he says. “You also can click on a specific project and drill down to see status, tasks and who is working on what. We also use the metrics and measurement part across the organization and within each project.” -

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