How 1 CU Is Using A Project Management Solution

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GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo.-Talk isn't cheap at Bellco CU.

Whenever Bellco's 300 staff members talk shop, the conversation is fruitful, according to Lee Ann Downey, Human Resource director at the $1.5-billion CU.

Downey credits Bellco's productive discourse to Connections Online, a project management platform from Westlake, Ohio-based Cardwell that Bellco has used for five years.

The web-deployed tool makes the most of human capital at Bellco, Downey continued. Connections aggregates each employee's daily work to create a browser-based blueprint of the credit union, its goals and plans.

The structure and consistency of employee conversation is guided by the Connections "Dialog" option. Dialog allows Bellco staff members to log the problems and achievements associated with their various roles and projects as they work.

Structured Conversations

Thus, Dialog helps employees have "structured" monthly conversations with their managers, Downey said.

"Connections helps facilitate a one-on-one between the manager and employee," Downey explained. "I think it can be difficult getting employees and managers together to identify and talk about problems. If you can get them together once a month and talking in a structured way, then the organization is much better off."

"Employees used to sit down with their managers and say they didn't have anything they needed to talk about," said Downey.

The Dialog option-which can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook-is linked with a meetings module to schedule project discussions.

The Organization Connection module outlines Bellco's four business focus areas; whereas the Team module allows staff to track deliverables and evaluation criteria. The Individual module outlines an employee's roles.

Bellco employees are now more knowledgeable about the organization than they used to be, Downey continued.

"Connections really helps employees stay linked to the organization," she said. "Employees are more satisfied when they know what's going on, and they feel connected to the CU," Downey explained.

Employees can click through the Connections to see deliverables and due dates across departments. If a particular project impacts several departments, employees in each department are ready to step up to the plate at the appropriate time.

"Employees can also easily find our monthly reports, which include six financial, five membership relationship, and three employee retention measurements," Downey added. "We've got employees going out every month to see the results. They love it."

Whenever employees from different departments work together, they know the routine, Downey said. "Connections allows for a very structured collaborative approach that is the same whether you're on Team A or Team B. The project will run exactly the same way, instead of having one team leader run it this way or another run it that way."

Posting all project information in the public realm has affected staff motivation, as well, said Downey. "The public format really keeps team leaders on their toes ensuring that deliverable deadlines are met."

The Red Dot

Connections assigns a red dot to any project deadline that isn't met. "We've all got the red-dot syndrome," Downey said. "Nobody wants that red dot."

Connections, winner of the CUNA Tech Council's Best of Show award at the 2004 Bank Administration Institutes (BAI) Retail Delivery Conference and Expo, demonstrates ROI by speeding project completion and by improving project quality, both by 30%, according to a user survey last year funded by Cardwell.

Downey, however, sees Connections' value in the project process, not the product. "I can't say Connections makes a final product of higher quality," she said. But it has positively affected our process."

Downey estimated that Connections helps manage about 30 projects per year at Bellco.

CUJ Resources

For info on this story:

* Bellco CU at

* Connections Online

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