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One thing Tiffany Yoquelet really likes about the project and strategy management software at Three Rivers Federal Credit Union is how it helps accomplish that most sensitive of missions-managing up.“Connections Online is a great vehicle for managing up,” for keeping the senior managers at her $531 million credit union on task, according to the project administrator at the Fort Wayne, Ind., credit union.She said that’s especially true for those sensitive to bearing “the red ball of shame.” That’s one of the icons the software uses to indicate that a task that’s part of a larger project has fallen behind schedule.“I love the accountability piece of this solution” Yoquelet said. “It’s color coded, so if a date is fast approaching, you see a yellow ball and if it goes past, you get the red ball of shame. Everyone can see it and everyone’s on the same page.”“Having this in place helps me manage up to the executive team, which is something that can be pretty difficult to do without something like this.”In addition to vertical reminders, the Connections Online software helps manage progress across the enterprise, something that came in particularly handy during the credit union’s recent conversion to a new core processing platform, in this case a new system from Open Solutions Inc.“That was a huge project that was mine to run,” Yoquelet said. “We held project meetings once a week, but in between all that, I could keep up with how everyone was doing on their part of this without having to run to them all the time and ask. It also helped us see when someone was falling behind and perhaps needed our help from IT.”Project and people management are two of the three focuses that Connections Online brings to the enterprise, said Karla Norwood, president of Connections Online, part of the Cardwell credit union management and consulting software company she operates with her husband, Jim Cardwell.The third is strategy, she said, a facet of credit union management that is taking on increasing importance in this challenging business environment.“If executives lack well-coordinated implementation of all these things, if they’re so buried in their core processes that they can’t look at their strategic goals, too, the consequences are going to become increasingly dire,” Norwood said.She said the 60 or so credit unions running the Web-based software from her suburban Cleveland company help avoid that mire by organizing and presenting relevant information through a centralized communication channel.“They say that the average executive spends two to three hours a week just looking for information. What Connections Online does is organize your information around your business, which makes it easier for everyone to be working on the same page. Oftentimes people think they are, and they really aren’t. When they are, it really helps improve productivity,” Norwood said.She said her clients have seen “significant top-line growth in members and assets without changing who’s on their executive teams, just by focusing and prioritizing.”Holding each other accountable is something the project management piece does particularly well, with its color-coded progress flags and the ability to prohibit manipulation of deadline dates, said Yoquelet at Three Rivers.She said her credit union uses the Connections Online software only at the management level and in its back offices but plans to expand it further. Norwood said that experience is typical of her client base, many of whom she said are planning to take it out to the teller level as another new version of the now 11-year-old solution is rolled out this year.Intuitive ease of use is being enhanced, and expanded Web services capabilities will allow more robust use of metrics across the platform and deeper interaction with Microsoft Office applications and tools such as RSS feeds, Norwood said.–[email protected]

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