• By: OnSemble
  • August 22, 2018

With budget planning right around the corner, credit unions need to think hard about the alignment of strategy and technology spend. Many organizations feel constrained by IT resources that are absorbed in – one could even say burdened by – day-to-day operational tasks. This causes many important strategic business needs and goals to not receive proper attention.

So, how can you become a successful “digital organization,” driving to be more efficient, effective, and agile? How can both the member and employee experiences be improved within the increasingly digital workplace? How can IT solutions and users help drive strategy?

1. Strategic IT Alignment

Most businesses have IT running long, hard, and fast to keep up with organization-wide requests and support. There can be a lack of insight into whether these tasks are really aligned to meet business goals and needs. Businesses can begin to feel constrained by IT, who are absorbed in menial projects while the business’s highest-priority initiatives are left unattended.

To achieve true strategic alignment in 2019, it is vital to have solid IT Strategy for engagement and collaboration. All IT initiatives, programs or projects, should undergo a two-phase approach:

  • An analysis of business needs and strategic goals and what value—internally to the organization and externally to customers—they provide; and
  • A hard look at internal or external IT capabilities and costs with a realistic timeline for execution. This can be done with a simple value-effort comparison between low-to-high value versus low-to-high effort. High-value/low-effort would be a no-brainer to take on.

Next, whether an improvement or a new technology solution is needed, measurable key performance indicators or metrics for return on investment, productivity increases, revenue growth, and cost reductions, should be put in place. As the saying goes, “It isn’t worth doing if you can’t measure it.”

Always ask the big-picture questions: Is our business-IT strategy going to enable our organization to be more efficient, is our business-IT strategy ignoring internal mission/culture, employee engagement or team collaboration that all help drive overall business success?

2. Internal and External Value-Effort

An IT asset portfolio today can be massive, which adds to the complexity of maintaining and upgrading the current IT base. It can be a big hurdle in efforts to focus on business needs and goals. To overcome this, it is necessary for all stakeholders to do a comprehensive analysis of all internal employee as well as external customer facing needs and goals. Similarly, it is important to identify the capabilities needed and available in-house and find the right partners for outsourcing.  Your IT team cannot be expected to be the best at or experts on everything. Go outside the organization if it provides the best value-effort.

Let’s take the example of $823 million ALEC Credit Union, Gurnee, Ill. ALEC selected an intranet provider solution, OnSemble, which freed up IT resources by not having to build the Credit Union’s intranet in-house from the ground up. Non-IT staff now manage the intranet. ALEC has also gone beyond the conventional use of an intranet by implementing permissions to manage systems and technology access and asset tracking, fulfilling Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council compliance guidelines. The savings gained from such IT asset management can be significant, as seen in the Gartner Report, typically achieving 30 percent cost savings in the first year and at least 5 percent cost savings in subsequent five years.

3. Big-Picture Affordability

Be careful not to make IT decisions purely based on cost savings. Strategy should determine the budget, not the other way around. A common objection to any investment or spend is, “We can’t afford that!” However, your organization should always ask, “Can we afford not to do that?”

Another important aspect of business-IT strategy that organizations cannot ignore are hidden costs like the additional staffing and long-term requirements to implement, manage and upgrade solutions over time. This is the long-term value-effort.

4. Buy-In and Adoption

A key success factor not in any line item of a budget is organizational buy-in and adoption of a technology or solution. Top-down buy-in from leadership and bottom-up buy-in from front-line staff is paramount. However, it is possible to have initial buy-in and still not achieve adoption. You may also experience an initial short-term happy “pink-cloud” adoption brought on by excitement but later suffer from decreasing long-term adoption for a variety of factors. A good example of buy-in and adoption of a solution is $393 million Roseville, Mich.-based Christian Financial Credit Union’s digital workplace transformation, which realized benefits echoed not only in the voices of their employees but from the board of directors.

When you plan for your 2019 budget, you must consider strategic needs and goals, determining the best value-effort including internal and external resources, big-picture and long-term costs analysis, and getting solid buy-in and universal adoption will ultimately determine strategic IT success.

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