How To Give Paper, Microfiche The COLD Shoulder

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A document management solution should be a staple for all credit unions, but an electronic workflow system that automatically routes documents and assign tasks is still out of reach, according to Hudson Valley FCU (HVFCU) here.

"Document management is essential for credit unions, especially for COLD data storage," asserted Danielle Migliore, business systems administrator at the $2-billion CU. "If you had to, you could still save your reports to michrofiche or paper, but I still can't imagine a CU without document management."

Computer Output to Laser Disk (COLD) storage isn't enough, according to John Wintermeier, vice president of IT at $525-million Achieva CU: scanning all documents for electronic storage and access is critical, said Wintermeier. Stored images help the Largo, Fla.-based CU respond to member inquiries in real-time, he said.

COLD storage and document imaging are two of several technologies that contribute to Enterprise Content Management (ECM). ECM systems allow businesses to capture, store, control and collaborate on any number of electronic documents, including teller receipts, reports or e-mails.

Credit unions without ECM systems are "behind the times," concluded Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Cornerstone Advisors after a recent survey of more than 260 small to mid-size financial institutions and vendors, including about 150 CUs.

Whereas most CUs said they are using ECM for COLD, only about one-third have launched the most valuable and complex component of ECM-electronic workflow management, according to the Cornerstone report.

Though workflow is the component that Achieva CU looks forward to most, it's also the most challenging to implement, according to Wintermeier.

Workflow software can automatically distribute, prioritize and forward electronic documents across the credit union, as well as notify users when documents are available for collaboration.

One electronic records management firm believes that electronic workflow for credit unions costs more than it's worth.

"I agree that workflow is difficult," said Hal Tilbury, CEO at Vista, Calif.-based Bluepoint Solutions. "I would suggest that the costs are simply not worth the effort. Workflow is very good in high volume operations that have intensive manual tasks, and you don't typically find those types of processes at credit unions."

Instead, if a credit union uses best practices for document management, "workflow is obviated," Tilbury said.

Best practices include capturing document images at point of entry, organizing them by member, and making them immediately accessible, he said

Despite the difficulties presented, Weyerhaeuser Employees' CU (WECU) is in the thick of setting up workflow in its accounting department.

"Getting workflow set up and fully functioning is a big process," explained Meredith Ellis, lead IT specialist for the Longview, Wash.-based credit union. "A big part of the challenge is that employees are reluctant to change the way they do things now.

"A lot of people still like their paper," she said.

Workflow aside, all three CUs interviewed by The Credit Union Journal appreciate the ability to scan documents and then store and access them electronically.

"We can retrieve images with a couple clicks of a mouse and a couple seconds of time, instead of manually pulling the documents from the vault," said Ellis.

"The benefits of instant document retrieval are so tangible that our credit union doesn't have to complete an ongoing cost-benefit analysis," Migliore added.

The credit unions have cut microfilm, courier and fax costs, said Migliore and Ellis.

And WECU cashes fewer fraudulent checks because tellers can easily access electronic member signature cards, Ellis added.

The WECU electronic filing cabinet contains COLD reports and loan and member services documents-about 25% of all the credit union's paper, Ellis said.

HVFCU is going a bit further, also scanning members' driver's licenses and teller receipts, replacing about 50% of the organization's paper, said Migliore.

The three credit unions have used the Onbase ECM suite for five years. Onbase was developed by Cleveland, Ohio-based Hyland Software and combines document management, business process management and records management.


For info on this story:

* Achieva CU at

* Hudson Valley FCU at

* Weyerhaeuser ECU at

* Bluepoint Solutions at

* Hyland Software at (c) 2006 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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