Hooked Up: How To Deal With IT Challenges During Merger Process

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JERICHO, N.Y.-E-mail and a competent core vendor were the only technologies that two small credit unions needed recently to ensure mergers went smoothly.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the asset spectrum, Navy Federal is relying on specialty data conversion, workflow and systems automation tools.

"E-mail took care of everything we needed to communicate with our core processor," including attaching system test files, said JoAnn Doyle, CEO at $95-million North Shore LIJ Health System FCU (NSLIJHS FCU) here. "We didn't have to wait for packages and paper to go through the mail."

The core vendor merged all account data and systems for a collective four branches and six kiosks, Doyle said. "We just told the project manager what policies and products we wanted to change." The processor also provided the CU with a secure portal in order to transfer non-public communications and data.

After the core vendor mapped the merged CU data onto the continuing CU database, NSLIJHS FCU manually checked through the results. "I don't think automation could have taken care of the proofing," Doyle added. The CU runs on an online version of the Fiserv Spectrum platform.

"E-mail was a good source of communication," during COPOCO Community CU's merger, agreed Doreen Smith, systems coordinator at the $92-million CU in Bay City, Mich.

But it wasn't perfect, she said. "E-mail made it difficult sometimes to explain differences in account types and how they changed from the old system to the new system," Smith said.

Thanks to COPOCO Community's data processing software, the data conversion process was as painless as possible, she continued. "The vendor converted the data from the merged CU into our database, and then we just had some manual file maintenance. I'm not sure how much more they could automated and still have the data come out the way it needed to be, what with the differences in the two systems."

Without the vendor's help, COPOCO Community would have had to manually enter each merged account into the system and then make entries into the general ledgers, Smith said. The CU runs an online version of Fiserv Galaxy.

It would have been nice if the merged CU's core system had enabled COPOCO Community to run custom reports, said Smith. Using standard reports made it difficult to compare the merged data with continuing data, she said.

Navy Federal is using the EnableSoft Foxtrot Suite during its merger to allow non-technical staff at the CU to move, merge and manage data, said Frank Myers, SVP, Lending Processes and Improvements at the $43-billion CU. Foxtrot "rapidly and automatically" parses, cleans and transfers the merged CU data for people who don't have programming expertise.

That's fortunate for Navy Federal: "The only other option would be to manually copy data," explained Myers.

The CU then uses Hewlett Packard QuickTest Professional to automatically test all applications and data interactions to make sure they function properly with the merged data.

IBM Lotus Domino workflow and communications software keeps employees on task and organized during data conversion activities, Myers added.

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