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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Perhaps befitting a credit union whose founding SEG is one of the nation’s high-tech pioneers, Sandia Laboratory FCU has stepped forward and become more than just a beta for Passageways – it’s the alpha beta. The $986 million CU is beta testing the Indiana-based credit union intranet specialist’s new enterprise instant messaging module. And the beta process itself is a first for Passageways. “We previously didn’t have the infrastructure to accurately deploy betas, so this is a significant first for us to be able to do that now,” says Christopher Beltran, a co-founder of Passageways. Beltran and fellow grad student Paroon Chadha developed the company and led it through its launch by a CUSO of Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union four years ago. Passageways now has more than 60 credit unions using its intranet collaboration and knowledge management platforms and is offering the new IM module as a fully integrated add-on after its trial runs at Sandia, PEFCU and IH Mississippi Valley CU in Moline, Ill. The IM module provides a secure channel of instant communication that’s proved valuable between member service staff and managers alike, says Timothy Sanchez-Brown, technology services manager at 54,000-member Sandia Lab FCU (www.slfcu.org). The service is secured and encrypted, auditable, can be used to send files and screen shots, does not save chats (allowing account numbers to be transmitted with less privacy concerns) and includes an “expert locator” feature. Tellers were expected to be the primary beneficiaries of the service, but it’s turned out to be the call center reps who seem to use it the most, Beltran and Sanchez-Brown say. “Service reps can’t really leave their desks or phones or wait for e-mail to go get information somewhere else in the credit union, so being able to instant message is a big help,” Sanchez-Brown says. “It’s helped us decentralize management of information and is helping our staff provide timely, accurate communications.” Beltran says mid-level managers also seem to be heavy users of the IM module. “It gives branch managers, for instance, a way to communicate with each other very quickly about situations they may all need to know about quickly,” he says. That’s proven useful for Sandia Lab FCU, which has eight branches in New Mexico and California, says Rachel Justus, the credit union’s senior manager of marketing and service quality. “Anything we can do to ease communications between the branches and us is a real positive, and it’s proven very easy to use,” she says, adding that some departments use it more than others simply because of the nature of their work. Sandia Lab FCU went live with the enterprise IM module in January and has been meeting regularly with Passageways staffers to assess the technological and business process progress. “We’ve flown down there regularly and met weekly by phone for feedback and we’re studying the results to try to discover and quantify what the business benefits are,” says Beltran, Passageways’ vice president of product development. “For instance, we could be finding that a member service person only has to get up three times a day to find out certain things instead of leaving the desk six times a day.” Sanchez-Brown says those kinds of efficiencies have not yet emerged since the January launch but he expects them to soon as staffers get more comfortable with the IM system and use it more. “It’s very simple to use but some people are just naturally resistant to new technology,” he observes. “But we’re very happy with it overall. It’s another option, another tool. We’re not forcing it on anyone.” -

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