FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — The coming year looks to be a big one on the credit global banking technology front, says industry analyst group Financial Insights.

The firm’s recent survey of nearly 800 financial professionals led the analysts to predict that financial institutions will spend more than $170 billion on IT in 2008.

Bang for the buck, however, will be more difficult than ever for credit unions and banks to achieve. Analysts expect a softened dollar, weakening consumer credit markets and a faster pace to mergers and acquisitions to complicate an already competitive banking environment.

In such a marketplace, Financial Insights advises not to throw out the proverbial banking baby with the bathwater. Instead, credit unions should build on existing technology systems versus enacting costly technology overhauls.

“Investment [should] focus on key back office technologies that will allow for increased growth and improved efficiency,” the think firm concludes in its ninth annual analysis of strategic IT initiatives. “(These) continue to include IT and business process outsourcing as well as quickly reducing costs and improving inefficient processes.”

Accomplishing these IT tasks, however, is no small feat. Still, Financial Insights suggests they’re more than attainable by recognizing 10 IT realities for 2008:

STEP 1: Information Management — Data resources are growing in leaps and bounds, and so too the challenges of managing them. The old focus of data management, argues Financial Insights, will migrate toward a more life cycle approach.

STEP 2: Technology Refresh — Today’s banking technology, says Financial Insights, is “dynamic IT,” backed by increased flexibility and transparency. New technology will inevitably “wrap itself around the old,” allowing new systems to build onto existing ones.

STEP 3: Data Security — The system’s safety is arguably at un-precedented levels of concern…and rightfully so. “Channel expansion, real-time processing, geographic dispersion, outsourcing, and mobile workforce and customers,” suggests Financial Insights, are all security realities that must be addressed in 2008.

STEP 4: Business Process Management — “Institutions are taking the time to examine what they do and why they do it,” the Financial Insights report says. Thus, efficiency becomes paramount when planning both management and outsourcing bank processes, long term.

STEP 5: Credit Risk Management — The subprime mortgage collapse highlighted a glaring need for credit-quality control. As a result, greater emphasis will be placed in 2008 on technology capable of spotting future potential credit pitfalls before they occur.

STEP 6: Predictive Analytics — Related to Step 5, similar software could help empower credit unions with true risk-priced pricing. “Recognition of the importance of data,” says Financial Insights, “is the lifeblood of an organization.”

STEP 7: Mobility — Much has been made about mobile banking, an “exciting growth area [offering] a new payment channel for consumers across all levels of society,” posits Financial Insights. These payments, the analysts argue, will become commonplace in the coming year.

STEP 8: Core Systems Renewal — “Many difficulties stem from aging core systems,” proposes Financial Insights. Not surprisingly — and as a result — banks and credit unions will continue to re-invest in core banking applications in 2008.

STEP 9: Green — Going eco-friendly is good banking business both cost and image-wise. Save trees and consumers; everyone wins.

STEP 10: Channels — The banking industry will continue to expand its technological reach in 2008. The Web, branches, kiosks, call centers and mobile channels will further erode notions of brick and mortar limitations for credit unions and banks.

In sum and at the end of the banking day, successful IT processes cannot exist on an island. Financial Insights suggest aligning these 10 steps with existing processes, in what it calls a forward-thinking approach conducive to a long-term, IT vision.

–mrapport@sc.rr.com