The biggest decisions in a core banking system change arefrequently made prior to the project's actual start. In a recentCU Times interview, Black Hills Federal Credit Unionoffered an inside look at its pre-conversion choices.

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For the first of a series of articles documenting its conversion journey, the $1.07 billion, Rapid City, S.D.-basedcredit union revealed its course of action – from developing astrategic initiative through RFPs, vendor interviews and scorecardsto making a core selection.

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BHFCU SVP of IT John Buxton recalled a number of events that ledthe credit union to consider a new core system during the last quarter of 2015.

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“It was a combination of things, such as the timing of contractsand integration with best of breed software we wanted to implementbut could not,” he said.

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Plus, its current system is 20 years old and still based onWindows XP. That led the credit union to search for a partner thatcould help.

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“We had an internal steering committee that evaluated severaldifferent consulting groups and people with expertise in thatarea,” Buxton said.

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After several months of presentations and evaluations, the coreproject officially kicked off in January with the selection of theChino Hills, Calif.-based Samaha & Associates to help withanalysis, planning, implementation and documentation.

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“From our perspective, we see these as organization projects,not just IT projects,” Samaha & Associates Managing ConsultantAdam Denbo explained.

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After selecting Samaha & Associates, the credit union'ssmall internal steering committee was expanded to include employeesfrom all departments, especially as it started bringing coreproviders onsite, Buxton explained.

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“When we have our kickoff meetings, we meet with all thedifferent teams,” Denbo said.

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The goal of those meetings is for the core provider tounderstand the credit union.

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“We know the core systems out there in the marketplace, we knowthe credit unions really well, but we didn't know Black HillsFederal Credit Union,” Denbo added.

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Samaha & Associates spent several days onsite learning aboutthe credit union's different teams and traveling to differentlocations to understand the various aspects of BHFCU.

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The next step – producing a request for a proposal – was acollaborative effort from the beginning.

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“Unlike some other consulting firms, we like to start off with ablank sheet of paper and have the credit unions author their ownquestions,” Denbo said.

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During the kickoff meetings, Samaha & Associates gave thevarious departments homework.

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“We found out how they would ask questions in an open-ended wayto various core processors,” he said. “That is how they start tocompile a list of questions to ask.”

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Buxton added, “It's really hard to get an organization to writean RFP. That is why one person or one small group ends up doing it,but that's not the case here. Samaha has a really good process forhelping credit unions write an RFP.”

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Read the first installment in Black Hills Federal CreditUnion's core transition article series in the June 15, 2016 issueof Credit Union Times.

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Roy Urrico

Roy W. Urrico specializes in articles about financial technology and services for Credit Union Times, as well as ghostwriting, copywriting, and case studies. Also: writer/editor of a semi-annual newsletter for Association for Financial Technology since 1997 and history projects funded by the U.S Interior Department, National Park Service and Warren County (N.Y.).