Core Conversion Goes Beyond DP

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Like many CUs, Tinker FCU braced itself for a core conversion. Unlike many credit unions, it also converted itself in the process, beginning with personnel.

"We weren't going to change the system; we're going to change procedures within the system," explained Tinker FCU VP-Project Management Ben Mannahan to The Credit Union Journal's Best Practices conference.

But Oklahoma-based Tinker did more than just convert to the Symitar Episys system. It also took on a new automated phone system, mortgage lending system, accounting system, home banking system, and made enhancements and additions to other systems, to boot.

The CU identified four keys to success: assign the right people to the right task; plan and coordinate heavily; communicate proactively to the membership, and do extensive employee training.

A new CIO was hired, who promptly brought in a new team of hardware experts, software developers and enough subject matter experts to allow at least one on-site expert for each of Tinker's 18 branches, including one that is 100 miles from the main office on Tinker Air Force Base.

To coordinate all of this, Tinker FCU staff integrated all vendors into a master plan, including weekly phone calls to active vendors, and formed a senior level steering committee with representatives from separate departments. "These are the people who sat down and said 'Where are we?'" he said.

Member communication was kept positive with a simple message of "Change is Good" on statements and mailers. Members were first told of the conversion in the CU newsletter, then notified of a new accounting system, then contacted about new statements and finally, the website itself adopted a new look. "There was kind of a rolling tide of information," he said. Mannahan said the conversion was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. "Comprehensive training is the most effective guarantee of implementation success," he said.

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