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MANCHESTER, N.H. – MembersFirst Credit Union is combining the power of a portal with the depth of a knowledge management database to provide smoother operations for its employees and better service to its members. The $120 million CU is one of the first to combine the intranet collaboration portal from Passageways LLC – a 14-client CUSO from Purdue Employees FCU – with the content database from SilverCloud Software of Henniker, N.H., which has about 50 credit union clients. The credit union is still finding ways to best use the combined systems internally to best provide members with information and service, and eventually may expand the use to member-facing functions, says Sharon LaBranche, vice president of operations for the 22,000-member institution. The CU uses the Passageways system for human resources needs and other areas where documents are not frequently updated and to give each employee her or his own area on the internal Web site to keep important links, documents and other information. While Passageways is “still in its infancy here,” LaBranche says, the installation of a new collections system is a good example of how the internal portal also was put into play. “All team members involved in the project had access to a calendar where all key dates were stored, the migration plan was stored, all documents involved in the project were stored and we had a discussion area where all comments, ideas and so forth were documented,” LaBranche says. “No one but the implementation team had access to it and worked it out well, providing good documentation for each step of the process without a lot of paperwork being shuffled around,” the CU’s operations chief says. The combination of the two solutions also is used daily by the CU’s entire staff, LaBranche says. Employee sign into the Passageway system each day and use it to access the SilverCloud knowledge base, a system that has proven especially helpful in dealing with member inquiries, she says. “All documents, policies, procedures and product knowledge can be accessed by using SilverCloud,” LaBranche says. “This has been a tremendous help with consistency within the branches. Members will get the same answer no matter where they go, and the information is up to date.” That’s the beauty of portals, says Christopher Beltran, one of Passageways co-founders. “To a credit union, I think one of the highest-valued pieces of a corporate portal isn’t technology at all,” he says. “It’s that the portal provides a `surface’ that everyone can easily access to present information on. “By information, I mean agendas, product information, and more as well as applications such as my expense reports and timesheets or the tasks I need to perform today,” he says. Meanwhile, a knowledge database like SilverCloud’s “cuts down on internal bottlenecks and empowers employees to seek their own answers to questions,” says Rick Blaisdell, the company’s co-founder and senior vice president of sales. “Employees are able to quickly and effectively answer member’s questions, and can be prompted with cross-selling opportunities,” Blaisdell says. As for using SilverCloud, “training for staff was minimal, 15 minutes at the most. If they can type in a question, they have it mastered,” says MembersFirst’s LaBranche. Training the staff responsible for building the knowledge base and providing the answers took about two hours each, she says. This product does not require users be high-tech gurus. “I had two of my retail managers work on the implementation and neither of them have any technical background.” SilverCloud and Passageways recently announced a strategic partnership to encourage more joint deployments such as that at MembersFirst. “I think that the combination of a flexible platform for presenting applications with a knowledge management system like SilverCloud’s is appropriate and very intriguing,” Beltran says. Both companies can provide ROI figures, but LaBranche puts the bottom line this way: “We do not have an ROI on this, because we felt the opportunity to provide consistent information and quality service to our members was more important.” -

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