'Batch Process' Planning Won't Cut It

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PLEASANTON, Calif.-Strategic planning is no longer a once-a-year meeting at an off-site location.

Instead, the pace of change-and opportunity-within the financial industry dictates that strategic planning must become a fluid process.

Sam Kilmer, VP-market development for Harland Financial Solutions, says the traditional credit union approach to strategic planning as a "batch process" that's conducted once in the summer no longer works. "If you have a rigid plan that says this is what our year will look like and this is what our budget will look like, I don't think that will be a process adaptable enough to deal with the pace of change and the opportunities that may come along. You need more of an ongoing process that allows management to rapidly make even dramatic shifts in strategy."

So added to the summer session, which serves as the framework and starting point, are quarterly and possibly monthly planning meetings, Kilmer advised. "Use those opportunities to see what has changed in the marketplace, the regulatory environment, and within the credit union. And then you must be able to say how the plan needs to change. It must become a more fluid process in terms of the credit union's ability to respond to change."

Regulatory pressure resulting from financial reform is major driver behind the need to make planning much less rigid, suggested Kilmer.

Kilmer said he believes that credit unions are beginning to change their strategic planning process. "We are seeing it showing up in situations where Harland is getting sourced, and I am sure it is happening elsewhere. But the pace of change will drive the evolution of strategic planning at credit unions. The leading CUs, however, will be the ones that get out ahead and say that strategic planning is a process that is not a document cooked up over the summer and sits on a shelf."

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